Quinnipiac Poll: What the Republicans Failed to Mention About Health Care Reform

A Sniffer Report: The Quinnipiac House Health Care Bill PollThe Sniffer: Always on the Job to Sniff Out Anti-Healthcare Reform Radiation

During the Senate debate on the Health Care Reform Legislation,  the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a number of Republican senators referred to a op-ed piece by David Broder, Washington Post columnist, titled, “A Budget-buster in the making.”  In his column, Mr Broder quotes from a survey poll conducted by Quinnipiac University released on November 19, 2009.  Mr Broder, focusing on just one question, states:

It read: “President Obama has pledged that health insurance reform will not add to our federal budget deficit over the next decade. Do you think that President Obama will be able to keep his promise or do you think that any health care plan that Congress passes and President Obama signs will add to the federal budget deficit?”

The answer: Less than one-fifth of the voters — 19 percent of the sample — think he will keep his word. Nine of 10 Republicans and eight of 10 independents said that whatever passes will add to the torrent of red ink. By a margin of four to three, even Democrats agreed this is likely.

That fear contributed directly to the fact that, by a 16-point margin, the majority in this poll said they oppose the legislation moving through Congress.

Hmm, is that so, Mr Broder?  Well, I just happened to read the complete news release from the researchers at Qunnipiac, including all those boring tables and numbers, and I came away with a completely different conclusion.

In Mr. Broder’s defense, he cites the opening statement of the report correctly:

Three-quarters of American voters – 74 percent – like President Barack Obama as a person, but only 47 percent like most of his policies, and voters disapprove 51 – 35 percent of the health care overhaul passed by the House of Representatives which he has endorsed, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

Voters disapprove 53 – 41percent of President Obama’s handling of health care.

Perhaps, though, Mr. Broder only read those two paragraphs, because just two paragraphs later is this statement:

Voters favor 57 – 35 percent giving people the option of being covered by a government- run health insurance plan, the “public option.” Independent voters approve 55 – 39 percent. The overall approval is down from 61 – 34 percent in an October 8 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. And they oppose two proposals to modify it:

* Allowing states to opt out of the public option is a bad idea, voters say 49 – 43 percent;

* Voters also oppose 47 – 38 percent the “trigger,” where the public option kicks in only if private insurance does not cover enough people.

Mr. Broder, as well as the distinguished Senators from the Republican Caucus, conveniently forgot to mention these results.  And some others, very important others, but we’ll get to those in a moment.

How should we parse these responses?  First of all, as an experienced researcher myself, the question is not very well written.  Not because of the content; it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask.  But the setup is too complex, and it borders on being a leading question.  It also should have been split into two questions:

  1. Do you think that President Obama will be able to keep his promise,
  2. Do you think that any health care plan that Congress passes and President Obama signs will add to the federal budget deficit?

Because of the way the question is phrased, we do not know to which of the two issues the respondent is answering.  Technically, the question should have been thrown out and the results not reported.

This assessment is strengthened in light of the next set of results.  In contrast to the results of the first question, the voters show considerable support for components of the health care reform.  By a margin of 55-37 percent, voters support the public option.  They oppose letting states opt out by 49-43 percent, and they oppose the “trigger” option by 47-38 percent.

Now, I don’t know about you, but these three items are among the most important in the entire health care reform legislation.  Couldn’t one, with some degree of confidence, say that from these results the American public generally supports key elements of the bills going through Congress?

That depends.  When asked if the respondents supported the House version of the bill, the split was 51-35 percent oppose, but 14 percent gave no answer.  The strongest opposition was expressed by whites, over 55 years of age, making more than $100,000, and describing themselves as conservative, and born again Christian evangelicals.   The strongest support came from African-Americans, in the 18-34 year old age range, with incomes less than $50,000 per year, describing themselves as liberal. (No data for Black religious preference was listed.)

As for President Obama’s support of the House bill, the attitude of most Americans toward him appears not to be much affected.  The category “no difference” runs consistently in the 40-50 percent range, with the obvious exception of those who identify themselves as Republican.  Since the percent of people who look favorably upon the president for his support of the House bill averages roughly 30 percent, adding it  to those whose attitude has not changed, we can’t draw too many conclusions, because the ones claiming no difference may be overall positive or negative.

The respondents, however, contradict themselves.  The next four questions all have to do with core concepts of health care legislation: the public option, states having the authority to opt out of the federal plan, the passage of a “trigger” provision that would  activate under a set of conditions where not enough people were covered by an established date, and whether or not Congress should pass the legislation this year.  On all four items, the responses are solidly positive.

But one issue they do not contradict themselves is their opinion of the Republicans and their behavior regarding the health care reform legislation.

While this survey has bad news for the President, the news for Republicans is worse:

Voters say 45 – 36 percent, including 40 – 37 percent among independents, that Obama is better able to handle health care than congressional Republicans. In October, it was 47 – 31 percent in the President’s favor.

Voters also say 59 – 29 percent that Republicans are not making a good faith effort to work with Obama and the Democrats on health care.

As one might expect, neither Mr. Broder nor the Republicans, reading the same industry-supplied script they’ve been parroting for months, mentioned anything about this part of the survey.  In the spirit of fairness, the voters aren’t all that favorably disposed to the Democrats either, but  out of Pres. Obama (45-36% over the GOP), Democrats (36-55%) and Republicans (31-58%) , the GOP  comes out dead last.

The quest for universal health care continues, strongly braving the winds of opposition blowing at hurricane strength.  The storm may increase, but the gale will not deter us.  All storms blow themselves out.  America will have universal health care.  A new blessing of Liberty will be enshrined in the Great American Experiment.

The Public Plan–Is Obama Capitulating or is This a Feint?

The media is all a-twitter (pun intended) over touting the demise of the Public Option in the Health Care Reform legislation, as if it were sliding toward the edge of the negotiating table ready to dribble over like a melted popcicle.  On the news I must have seen the clip where the President calls the plan just a “sliver” of the whole reform effort a dozen times.  Pundits are in full obituary mode.  Even the New York Times, a staunch supporter of the Public Option, is grief stricken.  Bob Herbert, in his column for August 18th, wrote,

The hope of a government-run insurance option is all but gone. So there will be no effective alternative for consumers in the market for health coverage, which means no competitive pressure for private insurers to rein in premiums and other charges. (Forget about the nonprofit cooperatives. That’s like sending peewee footballers up against the Super Bowl champs.)

It’s over.  The insurance companies are laughing all the way to the bank.  The clink of expensive brandy snifters raised in countless boardroom toasts is reverberating across the country.  The corporate jets are warming up on the  tarmac, ’cause it’s fiesta time for Big Medicine!

Have you heard Rep. John Boehner or Sen. Mitch McConnell whine about anything significant this week?  Have the shout-down disrupters in the Town Hall meetings gotten more strident?  Are the “experts” on Fox and CNN actually agreeing?  I even heard a PBS contributor use the term “panic” when referring to the president’s health care strategy.  Is Tom DeLay going to be on Dancing with the Stars?  I mean, if Tom DeLay “The Hammer” who almost certainly has been consulting with his Republican clients about how to kill the Public Option, has time to, well, uh, trip the light fantastic  on national TV, can there be any hope?  UPDATE: Chris Matthews, host of  “Hardball”  just named DeLay, “Twinkle Toes.”  I’m not kidding–check the transcript on MSNBC  for 8/18.

Hmm.   Well, I’m suspicious.  You see, in the days before the election (when Extreme Thinkover was still in its infancy) I posted a blog stating one of the most difficult things Americans would have to come to terms with, if Barack Obama won, would be the presence of a very smart president as president:

Make no mistake, this will be a shock to Americans if Barack Obama is elected, not because he is African-American, a Democrat, a liberal, or in the eyes of some, the Anti-Christ, but because he is smart.  That’s right, I said it plain and simple.  Barack Obama is a smart person, well educated, and has an intrinsic capacity for deep analytical thinking.

Now, I knew this would be a shock to Republicans, who had basked in George Bush’s inability to compose a coherent sentence, and Dick Cheney’s ability to snarl his victims into stone-like fear for the past eight years.  I, however, underestimated how much of a shock this would be to Democrats, who voted for Obama.  But I admit now that the Democrats in Congress are as much in shock.  They can’t seem to figure out to do with their success, AND a president that thinks complex thoughts and speaks, well, college-level English.

Back to health care reform.  I’m just thinking.  Why would a really smart politician like Barack Obama just waffle around on one of the key ideas of his health care plan?  Yes, I know, he can’t control all the political variables, and having majorities in both houses of Congress takes a while to get the kinks worked out.

So, is the dust-up over the Public Option the result of an inexperienced president, a disorganized president, a whatever president–panicked, sold out, capitulating?

Like John Stewart said, “I can’t tell if you’re a Jedi and ten steps ahead of this thing?”

Or maybe is this president well aware of this game of chess played on a shifting, multi-dimensional board, with changing rules and players, and working out his strategies many moves in advance, letting the different gambits and forays play themselves out, knowing full well what his end game will be and when to pull that trigger?

Capitulation or a calculated feint by a very smart man, who happens to hold the highest office in the land and is determined to get what he wants?

My take: Jedi Master and the Public Option: Yes.

Now is the Time: My Message to President Obama

President Obama, as part of his commitment to secure health care reform published an op-ed piece today in the New York Times, “Why We Need Health Care Reform,” laying out for the American people, and perhaps the world, the case for change.  I am a regular comment contributor to New York Times Op-Ed columns and below you will find the text of my comment.

I ended my comment with the statement: “Now is the time.”  There are times in the history of a nation, that certain reforms, regardless of the opposition, and, yes, even despite the fears of some must be overcome and guaranteed for all as part of the Common Good.  One of those times was the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery.  One of those times was the ratification of the 19th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States granting women the right to vote.  One of those times was Brown v. The Board of Education decision of the United States Supreme Court that revolutionized equality in education for all U. S. citizens.  Many more could be mentioned.

Now is the time for health care to be added to those moments of sublime national change, to join those great reforms, cast as the finest, hardest steel into our Nation of Laws as an inalienable right and an eternal Blessing of Liberty.

Mr. President,

I work in health care, as a hospital chaplain, and I could give you a thousand more stories of real people whose lives have suffered and through their loss of quality of life and productivity America has suffered, simply because they could not afford health care.  I am blessed to work for a non-profit hospital system that treats every person who comes to us, but this is a burden that cannot be sustained.

I support health care reform, universal coverage, and the complete overhaul of our broken and unjust system.  I believe that health care is a constitutional right, just as freedom from slavery, women’s suffrage, and equality in education has become enshrined among the “Blessings of Liberty.”

I urge you to be courageous and strong to fight for every American’s right to medical care, as a blessing of Liberty that will build a foundation for a healthy America into the future.  Now is the time!