Interpreting the polls on government-run health care

Every few days, Republicans in Congress introduce a bill to repeal Obamacare, the nation’s health care law. They use news quotes like these to justify their action:

A majority of Americans still oppose the nation’s new health care measure, three years after it became law, according to a new survey. …

According to the poll, 43% of the public says it supports the health care law, a figure that’s mostly unchanged in CNN polling since the measure was passed in 2010 by a Congress then controlled by Democrats and signed into law by President Barack Obama. Fifty-four percent of those questioned say they oppose the law, also relatively unchanged since 2010.

That’s from a CNN story on a poll it took on the issue. But note the ellipses. I’ve intentionally edited the two paragraphs to do what the GOP does in cases like this. Distort the findings. Because the missing paragraph between the two paragraphs says:

But a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday also indicates that more than a quarter of those who oppose the law, known by many as Obamacare, say they don’t support the measure because it doesn’t go far enough.

And the paragraph that follows says:

The survey indicates that 35% oppose the health care law because it’s too liberal, with 16% saying they oppose the measure because it isn’t liberal enough.

What does this tell you?

1) 43% support the law, or support a government health care program.
2) Of the 51% against the law, 15 percentage points of that figure want even more government intervention than the current law offers.

That means 59% of those questioned want a government health care program that covers all Americans, 35% oppose such a program and the remaining 6% aren’t smart enough to have an opinion on the matter.

But what headlines to we get?

Poll: 54 percent against Obamacare

That from the usually clueless Politico. That headline makes it sound like a majority oppose government-run health care. That’s not the case.

Digby explains it best:

It is not a majority position against a national health care plan or “big gummint” or any other of the typical beltway signifiers of a “center right nation.” It turns out that only 35% of the country has that attitude. The majority either support the plan or want more. I doubt that most people every understand that from the way the polls are presented.

And perhaps more significantly, it’s highly doubtful that the 16% who think the plan isn’t liberal enough would join with the Republicans to deny medicaid funding or refuse to create the exchanges or any of the other tactics that are being used to make implementation impossible. Those liberals are all for medicaid funding and undoubtedly would oppose any repeal of the significant advances in the plan short of a public consensus to switch to a single payer plan.

So, it would be nice if the media were clear on this. This is obviously a center-left country when it comes to health care reform and it’s only the third of the population that hates everything the government does who is unhappy.

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1 thought on “Interpreting the polls on government-run health care

  1. Good post, encouraging numbers. But it’s ironic that the public doesn’t know what the public actually wants — if you ask people I’d think few would say that Obamacare’s measures enjoy this popularity. And it’s not just the media — Dems need to fix the messaging on this, and it looks like Pelosi wants to spend summer recess doing just that.

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