Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Messages Matter

The usual numbnuts are misreading the results of this poll on public opinion about health care reform.

Cassandra at Delaware Liberal claims the results are "pretty good actually." If "our poll numbers aren't plummeting" means "pretty good actually," then maybe she has a point. But as the spin guys at DL usually do, she doesn't bother reading beyond the chart.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans now believe that tackling health care reform is more important than ever -- up from 53 percent in August. The proportion of Americans who think their families would be better off if health reform passes is up six percentage points (42% versus 36% in August), and the percentage who think that the country would be better off is up eight points (to 53% from 45% in August).

That does sound pretty good, doesn't it? Unfortunately, those "pretty good" results all depend on the questions asked. Most people say they are satisfied with their plans. And they also say that health care costs too much. And they say they like their doctors. And they say they want everything available to everyone. And, and, and.

You get the picture.

When either side simply quotes some poll with favorable results, it's designed to simply satisfy themselves.

Let's go back to that Kaiser poll that Cassandra was happy about. She quotes this section of it to show how bad things are for those opposed to Obamacare:
Republicans and political independents became markedly more pessimistic about health reform in August, but those viewpoints softened in September. While 49 percent of Republicans say their family would be worse off if health reform passes, this is down from 61 percent in August. The percentage of independents saying they would be worse off fell from 36 percent in August to 26 percent this month. [...]

Fifty-seven percent of the public — including 56% of independents — say the GOP is opposing reform plans more for political reasons than because they think reform will be bad for the country. [...]

Fifty-seven percent of the public say they would support “having health insurance companies pay a fee based on how much business they have” and 59 percent would support “having health insurance companies pay a tax for offering very expensive policies.” In both cases, Republicans are evenly divided while Democrats and political independents tilt in favor. [...]

Seniors are still less convinced than others that health reform will benefit them, but they too have become less pessimistic since August. The share of seniors who think their family would be better off if reform passes climbed 8 percentage points from August, from 23 percent to 31 percent. Twenty-eight percent thought they would be worse off, and 33 percent said it wouldn’t make a difference. Fifty-five percent of seniors said they were ‘confused.”[...]

Even I would support these ideas in theory, if I was a "stickin' it to the rich" kinda gal. But phrase those questions differently, and you would get different results.
1. Do you think Democrats are playing politics with health care reform by insisting on including a public option (considered a deal-breaker for many) rather than compromising with Republicans and independents to create a bipartisan bill?

2. Do you favor paying higher premiums and copays for your same health insurance plan if Democrats pass new taxes on to insurers?

3. Do you think it's likely that Democrats can cut $500 billion from Medicare and cut fees to doctors and hospitals without reducing the quality of care seniors receive?

My guess is that these questions would get rather different results from the ones Cassandra is hopeful about.

The strangest opinion Cassandra voices in her post is this one:
If anything, this indicates that Democrats do not need to be overly cautious here, and getting something done in November ought to be possible.

Well, no, it doesn't. In the third paragraph of the linked poll results, the Kaiser Foundation states:
Despite the uptick, a substantial share of the public (47%) favors taking longer to work out a bipartisan approach to health reform, compared to 42 percent who would prefer to see Democrats move faster on their own.

Emphasis mine.

The only reason to rush through a health care reform bill is to prevent debate and compromise. Let's be blunt here: the people pushing these "reforms" don't want Americans to voice disagreement with their plans. Elections have consequences, remember?