Polls or Proclamations?

Phony Obamacare polls are in vogue these days.  Several weeks ago, an ABC News/Washington Post poll told us that “[p]ublic support for the Affordable Care Act narrowly notched a new high.”  Based on a vaguely worded poll question, this survey didn’t even ask about ObamaCare specifically – only whether “[y]ou support or oppose the federal law making changes to the healthcare system.”  This poll's results were released in conjunction with the president’s announcement of 7.1 million new enrollees, further challenging the credibility of the poll based on the timing of release.

Not to be outdone, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week happily proclaims, “Americans increasingly prefer Democrats on healthcare.”  Let’s first look at who did this poll.  Ipsos is a “global independent market research company” that is “[c]ommitted to working with clients to identify the right solutions to their specific challenges.”  Their client in this case is Reuters, who commissioned the survey.  What might be the specific challenges facing Reuters?  Given Reuter’s left-leaning proclivities, as noted here and here, their challenge might be “correcting” a more honest poll from AP/GfK performed last month that showed only 26-percent support for ObamaCare.

What about the poll itself?  It was an online survey of 799 Americans.  Who was surveyed, and how?  Such details would affect the credibility of the survey.

Despite the misleading headline of the poll – “Americans increasingly prefer Democrats on healthcare” – it turns out that only 32 percent of respondents believe that Democrats have a better plan.  The “increasingly” statement is based on a 25-percent response in February and a 31 percent response in March.  So while it is increasing, it is hardly a ringing endorsement of the Democrat plan.  The Democrat plan is also well-known.  It’s called ObamaCare, and we have been living with it for several years.

The poll revealed 18-percent support for the Republican plan.  Which Republican plan is that?  This could be anything from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s recent proposal to the think-tank plans of the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Institute.  The reality is that there is no unified “Republican Plan” that ObamaCare can be compared to in an opinion poll.  Such a plan would only be an academic exercise, since even if something passed the House, it would go nowhere in the Senate, with Harry Reid tying it to the Koch Brothers, not to mention certain veto by the president.  

Which leaves half the respondents favoring...what?  About a third support ObamaCare, a percentage corresponding to the Democratic Party base.  About an eighth support the Republican plan, whatever that is.  But half want what?  Both?  Nothing?  Meh?  Regardless of what half the respondents want or don’t want, this poll is hardly the ringing endorsement of ObamaCare implied by the headline.  The fact that Democrats are running away from ObamaCare is a more realistic view.

But Reuters already knew the answer they wanted to report.  So they commissioned a pollster who could “[i]dentify the right solutions to their specific challenges.”  The pollster came through, finding a weakly favorable trend that their client could report as wonderful news.  Not only can the president take a “victory lap" over ObamaCare, but Reuters can as well.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government. Twitter @retinaldoctor.