Not so Fast, Mister President

Joseph Smith
In their high-pressure health care sales pitch to the American people, the Obama team has proven adept at creating a sense of urgency and at hammering away at a script designed to hook the public.  Following Obama's statement in a letter earlier this month that he strongly favors a public option, results of a New York Times/CBS poll were released that indicate that 72 percent of respondents favor a public option, and the Obama team has wasted no time getting that number into the script.  

That 72 percent number has been widely reported, and makes a 
perfect sound bite for the evening news or the morning paper.  The White House and their allies have repeated in every forum that a majority of people favor a public option, despite the fact that the survey headlines are misleading at best.  On Sunday, for example, David Axelrod said

I think a public choice will be part of it. I think the public wants to have that option, and wants to see that kind of competition, and I think we will have that.

If people are told often enough that a majority of people believe X, then many of them will begin to accept X themselves, which is what Obama and Emanuel count on in their efforts to drag public opinion in their desired direction.  There have been precious few voices questioning the premise in this case.  One is a Wall Street Journal column last week, which pointed out that on the recent surveys

If you read the actual questions you learn that the public is far less supportive of liberal policy goals... All that's new is the political repackaging -- which is making an appearance now because liberals know that their health dreams could become deeply unpopular once voters realize what they will mean in practice.

One indicator of a defect in the Times poll numbers is that the survey population was conveniently unbalanced, in that 48 percent of respondents said they voted for Obama, vs. 25 percent for McCain (Question 100).  While the November 2008 election was a 52-46 split, the survey population works out to a 64-34 split, hardly a reasonable comparison.  Even with that grossly unbalanced survey population, there are revealing answers to many questions that have been glossed over by the hurry-up crowd in the White House and their media supporters.

The survey found that 87 percent of respondents were satisfied with their own health care (Q. 51), a finding that has been conveniently omitted from most Democrat references to the study results, but which at the same time has led Obama to repeat the canard that under his plan people can keep the doctors and insurance they have.  When asked if they would be willing to pay higher taxes so all Americans are guaranteed health care, 57 percent initially said yes (Q. 59).  However, when  asked whether they would be willing to pay up to $500 per year extra taxes, the result is that just 43 percent of the total said yes (Q. 60).  No doubt as the price in taxes goes up even more, the approvals numbers will plummet that much further.

In three questions that ask if the respondents are concerned that a government health care system would worsen the quality of their own care, limit access to tests and treatment, and require changing doctors, respondents answering "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" totaled 63, 68 and 58 percent respectively.  If the majority have such concerns, it begs the question why would they favor a public option in the first place.

Some light is shed on that question by a wide-ranging Washington Post/ABC News Poll, also released last week.  That survey found that 62 percent of respondents (compared with 72 percent on the Times survey) favored a government-run or funded health plan (Q. 21), with about two-thirds of that number preferring an independent organization over a government agency.  When those 62 percent were further asked if they still favored it if a new government plan would cause many private insurers to go out of business, just 56 percent of those people said yes.  The result according to the survey table is that only 37 percent of respondents favor a government plan if it means driving private insurers out of business because they can not compete.   

When respondents were told of the implications, the percent dropped like a stone, from 62 to 37 percent.  Would I expect Obama to announce in a press conference that only 37 percent of people surveyed like his idea once they know what it means?  Of course not.  But that is the fact of the matter, and facts are stubborn things.  Obama's approach is to quote the answers from people who he knows don't understand the question, and use those answers to bludgeon his opposition into submission.  One might even dare to conclude that Obama is more interested in furthering an ideological agenda than he is in finding solutions to our health care concerns.

Indeed, when a bit of further study is done before succumbing to the hustlers on Pennsylvania Avenue, some interesting results appear that might lead one to say "not so fast, mister."
In their high-pressure health care sales pitch to the American people, the Obama team has proven adept at creating a sense of urgency and at hammering away at a script designed to hook the public.  Following Obama's statement in a letter earlier this month that he strongly favors a public option, results of a New York Times/CBS poll were released that indicate that 72 percent of respondents favor a public option, and the Obama team has wasted no time getting that number into the script.  

That 72 percent number has been widely reported, and makes a 
perfect sound bite for the evening news or the morning paper.  The White House and their allies have repeated in every forum that a majority of people favor a public option, despite the fact that the survey headlines are misleading at best.  On Sunday, for example, David Axelrod said

I think a public choice will be part of it. I think the public wants to have that option, and wants to see that kind of competition, and I think we will have that.

If people are told often enough that a majority of people believe X, then many of them will begin to accept X themselves, which is what Obama and Emanuel count on in their efforts to drag public opinion in their desired direction.  There have been precious few voices questioning the premise in this case.  One is a Wall Street Journal column last week, which pointed out that on the recent surveys

If you read the actual questions you learn that the public is far less supportive of liberal policy goals... All that's new is the political repackaging -- which is making an appearance now because liberals know that their health dreams could become deeply unpopular once voters realize what they will mean in practice.

One indicator of a defect in the Times poll numbers is that the survey population was conveniently unbalanced, in that 48 percent of respondents said they voted for Obama, vs. 25 percent for McCain (Question 100).  While the November 2008 election was a 52-46 split, the survey population works out to a 64-34 split, hardly a reasonable comparison.  Even with that grossly unbalanced survey population, there are revealing answers to many questions that have been glossed over by the hurry-up crowd in the White House and their media supporters.

The survey found that 87 percent of respondents were satisfied with their own health care (Q. 51), a finding that has been conveniently omitted from most Democrat references to the study results, but which at the same time has led Obama to repeat the canard that under his plan people can keep the doctors and insurance they have.  When asked if they would be willing to pay higher taxes so all Americans are guaranteed health care, 57 percent initially said yes (Q. 59).  However, when  asked whether they would be willing to pay up to $500 per year extra taxes, the result is that just 43 percent of the total said yes (Q. 60).  No doubt as the price in taxes goes up even more, the approvals numbers will plummet that much further.

In three questions that ask if the respondents are concerned that a government health care system would worsen the quality of their own care, limit access to tests and treatment, and require changing doctors, respondents answering "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" totaled 63, 68 and 58 percent respectively.  If the majority have such concerns, it begs the question why would they favor a public option in the first place.

Some light is shed on that question by a wide-ranging Washington Post/ABC News Poll, also released last week.  That survey found that 62 percent of respondents (compared with 72 percent on the Times survey) favored a government-run or funded health plan (Q. 21), with about two-thirds of that number preferring an independent organization over a government agency.  When those 62 percent were further asked if they still favored it if a new government plan would cause many private insurers to go out of business, just 56 percent of those people said yes.  The result according to the survey table is that only 37 percent of respondents favor a government plan if it means driving private insurers out of business because they can not compete.   

When respondents were told of the implications, the percent dropped like a stone, from 62 to 37 percent.  Would I expect Obama to announce in a press conference that only 37 percent of people surveyed like his idea once they know what it means?  Of course not.  But that is the fact of the matter, and facts are stubborn things.  Obama's approach is to quote the answers from people who he knows don't understand the question, and use those answers to bludgeon his opposition into submission.  One might even dare to conclude that Obama is more interested in furthering an ideological agenda than he is in finding solutions to our health care concerns.

Indeed, when a bit of further study is done before succumbing to the hustlers on Pennsylvania Avenue, some interesting results appear that might lead one to say "not so fast, mister."