McClatchy survey finds huge support – 2 to 1 – for health care reform
COMMENTARY | March 05, 2010
An opinion poll double take: On first blush, a McClatchy/Ipsos poll shows only a minority in favor of health care reform – but that’s because many in the survey want stronger measures than Obama is seeking.
By Barry Sussman
I wrote recently
about the outrageous fraud of Republican leaders citing public opinion as a reason to oppose health care reform. They do this to make it appear as though they’re the people’s party, and because it’s difficult to state their real reason, which is to bring down President Obama at any cost. Obama probably could get Republican support for health care reform by saying he has changed his mind and is now against it.
Comes now (Feb. 26-28) a McClatchy/Ipsos poll
of 1,076 people that on first glance offers rocks to sling at Obama. The lead question asks, “As of right now, do you favor or oppose the health care reform proposals presently being discussed?” Forty-one percent said they favored them, 47 percent said they were opposed, and the rest said they were unsure. Those are numbers the Republican leaders could work with.
But the pollsters went a step further, asking those opposed – 509 people in all – if they were against the proposals because they “don’t go far enough to reform health care” or because they go too far. Thirty-seven percent said it was because the proposals don’t go far enough. Thus – are you ready for this? – the addition of an obvious, simple follow-up question completely turns the tables. The overall numbers switch to 59 percent in favor of health care reform, 30 percent against. Putting aside those with no opinion, it becomes 66 percent in favor of health care reform, 34 percent against. Some would call that a consensus, or these days, a super majority.
Whoa, what happened here: a plurality against health care reform actually is a landslide in favor of it? In the same poll? If other surveys turn up similar data, will Republican leaders stop citing public opinion as the basis for opposing Obama’s health care legislation? Fat chance.
The poll did find resistance to key measures in the legislation. Seven of ten interviewed said they opposed putting “new taxes on the most expensive insurance policies;” six of ten opposed “a government requirement that everyone buy health insurance.”
For many interviewed, it is clear their responses represent gut feelings, not thought out positions. Only 10 percent said they knew “a great deal” about Obama’s proposed legislation and 32 percent said they knew “a fair amount.” Most people, 57 percent, said they knew “not very much” or “nothing at all.” So here we have a large majority saying, no doubt correctly, that maybe they aren’t exactly experts on the subject of health care reform?
How nicely does that fit into the political discussion these days. Health care reform is favored by ordinary Americans – popular, even – but they admit they don’t know much about the proposed Democratic legislation and have some real doubts. Sounds like a realistic picture.
Do you think that will stop John McCain, Uriah Hatch, Grassley and the Senate minority leader from Kentucky from telling us how overwhelmingly the public opposes the Obama health reform plan and how Democrats may enact it at their peril?
One thing the people interviewed do get is what game the Republican leaders are playing.
A question in the survey asked if the “Republicans in Congress are working hard to find a compromise with the Democrats on the health care bill," or if they are “deliberately avoiding compromise in order to obstruct the bill in any form.” Thirty-six percent said the Republicans are trying to find a compromise; 57 percent said obstructing the bill. Fifty-seven percent isn't a super majority but it’s close.
Barry Sussman is the editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project. He is the author of The Great Cover-Up: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate, now in its fourth edition.
03/16/2010, 02:32 PM
This article by Mr. Sussman should not have been published even as a Commentary.
At first I was going to implore the editors, then I found that Mr. Sussman *is* the editor. Wow.
This is what happens when journalists or editors are asked to perform logic or interpret statistics. If the logic is used that more radical healthcare reform would induce more from the not in favor crowd to jump to the in favor crowd, then one must also estimate how many currently in favor would be against more radical legislation and flip to not in favor.
Not only is this extremely weak, being based on only one poll, but it denies the history of the legislation while inventing a counterfactual non sequitur.
More radical legislation would (and already did) create more enemies than friends, thus we have the more watered-down, slightly less socialized version today.