Monday, December 27, 2010

Health Care Polling

Jed, please; you're killing me!

A good blogger, Jed Lewison, at Daily Kos comments about a poll taken for CNN by Opinion Research Corporation earlier this month:

As you may know, a bill that makes major changes to the country's health care system became law earlier this year. Based on what you have read or heard about that legislation, do you generally favor or generally oppose it?
Favor: 43%
Oppose: 54%

(IF OPPOSE) Do you oppose that legislation because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think it is not liberal enough?

Favor (from previous question): 43%
Oppose, too liberal: 37%
Oppose, not liberal enough: 13%

It takes about three seconds to look at these numbers and realize that the failure to secure a public option was President Obama's single biggest political mistake of the health care reform fight. Given the power of the health insurance lobby, getting a robust public option was probably never a serious possibility, but something like Medicare buy-in for people 55 and up was doable, and if Obama had been able to shepherd it through Congress, it almost certainly would have won over much of the liberal opposition to reform.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that most liberal opponents of health care reform aren't Democrats whose votes can be taken for granted. Most of them are actually independents. According to the poll, 17 percent of independents oppose reform because it is not liberal enough. That compares with 9 percent of Democrats.

In all, one-quarter of opposition to health care reform comes from people who believe it's not liberal enough, including about twice as many independents as Democrats who wish it were more liberal. If you happen to be one of those who believes that independents decide elections, that's a number you can't ignore.

Lewison's theme is right: a lot of people support single-payer (or a variant thereof) and should not be ignored. But Lewison undermined this point with his interpretation of the ORC numbers.

Question 2 was asked only of those who, unaware of the follow-up question, responded to Question 1 by saying they are opposed to the health care legislation enacted earlier this year. However, there are people who offered their support but, if aware they would be given the opportunity to explain their opposition because reform did not go far enough, would have answered "oppose" to the first question. These are people, the very wisest among us, who had grave misgivings about "Obamacare" but are loathe to put themselves in the camp of the opponents.

You remember those critics: the Democratic bill will increase the deficit by forcing millions of people to lose their coverage in the best health care system in the world and replace it with government takeover of health care which will destroy the private insurance industry and in which government bureaucrats will come between you and your doctor, determine what plan you have to accept, impose death panels, increase wait times for care, and generally turn us into Canada. Some of us would rather stand with President Obama and the Democratic Party than with the radicals whose opposition was more often hysterical than reasoned.

If the first two questions of the survey had been combined, such that respondents were asked whether they support the legislation, oppose it because it was too liberal, or oppose it because it was not liberal enough, more than 13% would have gone with the last option. Oh, maybe not 20% or 25%- but wherein a few respondents are proxies for millions of Americans, the percentage increase would have represented a lot of us who strongly believed the health care legislation far too tepid, reform excessively cautious. Those would have included independents, but more Democrats.

Unfortunately, as Lewison appears to understand- and as now is obvious- President Obama was little concerned about those "liberal critics" or, as he would put it, "sanctimonious purists."

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