Why New Jersey Residents Think Barack Obama is the Antichrist, and Other Health-Care Polling Conundrums


Politico notes that polls suggest the American public is a few hospital beds short of a care facility. How can people simultaneously love the public option, hate the public option, love Medicare, and hate government intervention? And why-oh-why do 8 percent of New Jersey residents seem to think that Barack Obama is the Antichrist?

Hey, these questions sound awfully familiar!

Regardless, the big question is whether these polls are in any way actually useful. And my answer is… it depends. As big-picture trend trackers, I think you can get a sense of swings in public mood, especially when you look at poll aggregates. If enough polls show a similar shift in public opinion, they're probably pointing to real trends. And in cases like health-care, where polls are all over the map, I think polls can suggest the considerable volatility of public opinion.

But as day-to-day debate movers, I think journalists put way too much stock in the minute-by-minute gyrations of the horse-race polls, and Beltway types get too wrapped up in the minutiae of organizational surveys. To a large degree, this is understandable: If politics is a game, polls are the scoreboard. But it's easy to forget that the scorekeepers—the public—aren't necessarily following rules that make any sense or are at all consistent from scorekeeper to scorekeeper. As pollster Celinda Lake tells the Politico, "Politicians need to understand that voters are very comfortable having mutually contradictory views."

NEXT: Texas Gov. Rick Perry Sticks His Fingers in His Ears

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I guess the website was redesigned? It looks pretty good, but the old ‘graffiti-esque’ logo looked better. I can’t believe you guys are messing with the blog’s brand.

  2. Most people have daytime jobs and are really not thinking about big-picture issues. They don’t generally have clear, definite views on these subjects. But they think they should. Hence by phrasing your question different ways you can easily “prove” that they have a variety of different opinions on any one such subject.

  3. “Liberals” love to tout Medicare as one of their big-government success stories these days. I guess this only goes to show that no matter how stupid and unnecessary a program is, no matter how wastefully it’s run, no matter how the government solution would stack up against any half-competent private solution, you can get a majority of people to approve of it as long as it’s funded by seemingly small payroll deductions over a vast segment of the populace and it doesn’t actually round people up and gas them with Zyklon-B.

    1. Hey, don’t knock Medicare. Without the $500B in waste, fraud and abuse, we’d have no way to pay for the current plan!

  4. “Politicians need to understand that voters are very comfortable having mutually contradictory views.”

    Well, that’s one way to note that most people have no actual guiding premise at the root of their political views. It’s all about what “feels right” or “makes sense” in any given instance.


  6. “Politicians need to understand that voters are very comfortable having mutually contradictory views.”

    politicians should understand that better than anyone

  7. Obama isthe pit bull with no teeth. All bark, no bite!


  8. Christianity would have been better off without the book of revelations. Oh, and the Old Testament too….

    1. Yeah, and Judaism would have been better off with the new testament…

    2. I think the Book of Revelations was inspirational to Hieronymous Bosch and all sorts of proto-surrealists as well as metal bands. On the one hand I agree with you, on the other hand, the aesthetics of Revelations are amazing.

  9. Part of it is that nobody knows what is being proposed. The Speechmaker-in-Chief hasn’t actually proposed anything, and what’s happening in the various congressional cubbyholes changes from one minute to the next.

    1. Very very true. The last poll I saw said 59% don’t understand the health care proposals… and 79% don’t think Congress understands them.

  10. Actually, it’s not so much that the opinions are contradictory so much as the analysis is. If you ran a survey on how many people would like their government (federal, state, local, whatever) give them some “free” ice cream, you’d probably get a big positive response. If you ran another poll asking them whether they’d like the government to put a tax on them to buy this “free” ice cream, they’d probably give you an overwhelmingly negative response.

    There’s no cognitive dissonance here. The attitude in each case is the same: everybody’s eager to get something for nothing. The first poll had to do with getting something for nothing, the second with giving something for nothing. The only dissenters in the first poll would be libertarians fiscally savvy enough to wonder who’s footing the bill for this “free” stuff and principled enough to refuse having stuff at somebody else’s expense.

    Moreover, a great many of the people polled may feel they’ve already contributed something toward the “free” stuff and therefore ought to grab for the benefit if they can get it without any further expense. Take Medicare, for example: your tax dollars are already paying for it whether you agree with it or not. When you need some health care, why pay more out of your own pocket just so you strut about what a principled libertarian you are? You’re just getting back a small part of what’s rightfully yours in the first place, aren’t you? And if you don’t grab for it, it’s only going to go to some undeserving leech who doesn’t pay as much in taxes as you do anyway, isn’t it?

    So, when one report says people want a big government handout and another report says they don’t want that handout, what these reports really mean is that no, the people don’t want to pay for any more handouts; but if you’re offering them one, they’ll take it.

    1. who’s footing the bill for this “free” [ice cream][?]

      Probably the cows… so unless you’re in PETA then not such a big deal.

      1. Someone’s got to milk those cows. Someone’s got to turn the crank on the ice cream churn. Most people won’t do these chores for free, so somebody’s got to pay them to do them. One way or another, the bill always finds its way back to the consumer.

  11. I’m confused. Are you saying Barack Obama isn’t the Antichrist?

  12. I think anyone calling Obama the anti-Christ isn’t totally off-base.

    After all, Obama has made claims that Jesus wants government to use the point of a gun to take money from people.

    I don’t know how much more anti-Christian you can get.

    1. I can’t recall a moment when Obama brought Jesus into the health care debate. Links?

      1. What Would Jesus Do? Ask Obama
        The president’s troubling use of religion to sell health care reform

  13. But how many people interpreted it as “ante-Christ”?

  14. I believe that it’s possible that 8% of NJ likely voters think it’s funny to answer a poll question about whether Obama is the antichrist in the affirmative.

    I’m definitely one, anyway.

  15. Jersey may be right. Everything Obama touches turns to shit.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.