Spinning the Polls

Perhaps humbled by its shellacking for hosting and broadcasting the Obama-infomercial on Wednesday, ABC and its collaborators at the Washington Post put a very different spin on a health-reform poll that has essentially the same results as the New York Times' one a few days ago. While the Gray Lady promoted the notion that the American people are ga-ga for a so-called "public option" for health insurance (actually a swamp of new federal bureaucracies, if Sen. Kennedy's bill is any indication), the WaPo/ABC folks are close to pushing the panic button on the plan for a government take-over:

Most respondents are "very concerned" that health-care reform would lead to higher costs, lower quality, fewer choices, a bigger deficit, diminished insurance coverage and more government bureaucracy. About six in 10 are at least somewhat worried about all of these factors, underscoring the challenges for lawmakers as they attempt to restructure the nation's $2.3 trillion health-care system.

Obama gets just over the bar on health care, with 53% approval (question #2). However, he gets a failing grade on the deficit (48%) and the auto bail-out (45%), which suggests that the disingenuous claims about a so-called "public option" competing "fairly" with the private carriers are necessary. As soon as people figure out its true costs and scope of government interference, they lose enthusiasm quickly. On the hopelessly poorly defined question of supporting a "public option" from a "government agency" or "independent organization with government funding", 21% favored the former and 42% the latter (#20). Of these 62%, 56% would be cool with the public option driving private insurers out of business through "competition" (#21). That's only one third of the total sample. Furthermore, the Democratic party's favorable/unfavorable ratings were 53%/40% versus 54%/38% in 1992, pre-HillaryCare, suggesting that the 2009 version of a health-care take-over faces at least as much trouble as its predecessor (#4).

Not that the Republicans are going to win this fight for us (with all due respect to Rep. Ryan, Senator DeMint, and the others who are struggling for oxygen in the health-care debate): their favorable/unfavorable ratings are 36%/56% today versus 53%/39% in 1992.

Comments (4)

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  1. Joe S. says:

    Thanks for clearing this up. We’ve been hearing lots of spin about the polls.

  2. Bart Ingles says:

    Any poll that offers an undefined alternative to the status quo will show favorable results. People will reflexively support anything that allows them to vent against their present gripes.

    The Republicans need to learn to “triangulate”. Preferably with principle, not by accepting some of the other side’s bad proposals, but rather by postponing components of their own proposals that happen to be controversial.

  3. Ron Greiner says:

    In other polling news:

    “Only 26 percent of likely voters in Massachusetts believe health care reform has been a success and just 21 percent believe reform has made health care more affordable, according to newly released poll results.

    The Rasmussen Reports poll of 500 likely Massachusetts voters, taken in April, also found only 10 percent said the quality of health care is getting better under the reform law rules here.”

    Poor President Obama has to try and sell this boring and unpopular Massachusetts plan to the rest of the 49 states. Senator Kennedy is too sick to help con America into his dream Socialized Medicine scam. Obama should ask Mitt Romney for help.

  4. Devon Herrick says:

    Like most economists, I distrust polls because I believe stated preferences are not as reliable as revealed preferences. When surveyed on their support for a public plan option, many people are clueless about the implications but still feel compelled to have an opinion lest they appear uninformed. The results are then trotted out as firmly held opinions that Americans are passionate about.

    The Left has been conducting polls like this year after year, that find strong support for universal coverage. Indeed, the survey instruments are often written in such a way as to solicit the desired response.

    Many of those expressing a desire to expand the government’s role in health care likely believe it can be paid for with other people’s money. I suspect their opinions would be different if they were asked to contribute.