"Impressive" Support For Health Care Reform Not Really All That Impressive


Over at The Daily Beast, Eric Alterman cites what he calls an "impressive" statistic about health care reform: 

One impressive statistic is that despite the complexity of the issue, the considerable impact it is likely to have on individual lives, and the media fascination with the scare tactics of "the Commie/Nazis are coming" right-wing, a solid majority of Americans wants Congress to pass a health-care reform bill, preferably with a public option.

The statistic, however, is less impressive when you do the difficult work of actually looking at the polls. The link Alterman provides simply doesn't show that "a solid majority of Americans" want Congress to pass a reform bill. Instead, it says that 1) one poll shows public support for the idea of allowing those younger than 55 to buy into Medicare and 2) the public option polls better when questioners compare it to Medicare. This isn't all that surprising; Medicare is, not surprisingly, a popular program. But it doesn't come close to telling us that most Americans want Congress to pass health care reform.

Indeed, numerous polls that attempt to gauge public support for the actual bill show just the opposite. According to Pollster.com, opposition to health care reform has climbed pretty steadily since mid September, and recently it's taken off. Currently, the site, which aggregates public opinion results from a variety of major polling organizations, puts opposition to the bill at 53.5 percent. Support, on the other hand, has declined to 38.4 percent. Nor are those numbers all coming from organizations like Fox and Rasmussen that liberals accuse of being biased toward the right: CNN's most recent poll puts opposition at 61 percent; Quinnipac puts it at 52 percent. And even those polls that show less than 50 percent in opposition still show significantly greater opposition than support.

Granted, there's been some quibbling recently about whether all of the opposition is actually coming from the right, and what that might mean for reform. But while interesting, I'm not sure how useful the distribution of opposition is to reform supporters. No matter where the opposition is coming from, the fact remains, a substantial number — probably a majority — of Americans oppose the reform legislation.