August 6, 2009

Pernicious "Public Option" Polling Peculiarities

Hatched by Dafydd

I noted in a post yesterday that in an otherwise coherent poll on ObamaCare, Quinnipiac inexplicably slipped in a Mickey, a bizarrely formulated question on the so-called "public option" or "government option;" as the question was phrased, it strongly implied that the individual insured, not his employer, gets to choose whether to stick with the private insurance his employer currently provides or jump ship for the loving embrace of Uncle Sugar:

23. Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?

Support 62%
Oppose 32

Of course, no version of the Democratic health-care plan ever left that choice to the worker; they always put that decision in the hands of the employer -- and then stacked the deck, virtually shoving companies in the direction of government. (Hence the well-founded fear by us gun-totin', swastika-sportin', well-bribed, fishy mobsters, us capitalist-imperialist, running-dog, reactionary disruptors of official government information dispensing at town-hall meetings, that the real goal of ObamaCare is a full, Canadian-style, single-payer health "care" scheme.)

Why stiff the individual in favor of the capo? Because individual choice is messy: People often make "the wrong decision." That's why Democrats have always resisted privatizing Social Security with a ferocitry bordering on hysteria. Paradoxically, it's much easier to push around a company, even a giant corporation, that has so much more to lose by annoying the man in the big chair.

It turns out that Quinnipiac is not alone in the casual creativity with which they describe the government option. Reading through Polling Report's roundup of recent polls on ObamaCare, I came across this question asked by the CBS/New York Times poll of July 24-28, 2009:

Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan -- something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get -- that would compete with private health insurance plans?

Support 66%
Oppose 27

Note the similarity of the responses to both these polling questions, each of which makes it seem as if you, personally, get to decide; could such wording have anything to do with the seemingly overwhelming support for the provision? In yesterday's post, I made the following prediction:

This would be a fairer and more accurate question that I wish they would ask:

Do you support or oppose allowing employers to drop the current private coverage of their employees in favor of a government-run health-care plan?

I suspect the answer to that question, making it clear that the choice belongs to the boss, not the worker-bees, would elicit a very different response from voters.

Polling Report reports many polls (hence the name); some ask a less loaded version of the government-option question than those by Quinnipiac and CBS/NYT. Contrast this question by the NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll of July 24-27, 2009:

And, thinking about one aspect of the debate on health care legislation: Would you favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies?

Support 46%
Oppose 44

That's quite a discrepency -- from 62-32 (30-point gap) and 67-27 (40-point gap) to 46-44 -- a 2-point gap.

And then there is this recent poll by Time Magazine, July 27-28, 2009:

Would you favor or oppose a health care bill that provides for the following?... Creates a government-sponsored public health insurance option to compete with private health insurance plans.

Support 56%
Oppose 36

This shows a wider gap (20 points) than the NBC/WSJ poll; but the Time poll is very skewed to the left on virtually every question; clearly they had a much more liberal respondent pool. (For example, in the Time poll, a plurality of 49% favored "a national single-payer plan similar to Medicare for all, in which the government would provide health care insurance to all Americans" -- !)

But even with such a left-leaning sample, support for this question is significantly lower than support for the similar-but-different question on the Quinnipiac and CBS/NYT polls.

Anecdotally, support for the government "option" has waned in recent months, as more and more American voters understand that it's not a personal option for them but an "option" decided by their employers -- on a playing field that is anything but level. Thus it's hardly surprising that the further back in time we go, the more support we see for this component of ObamaCare. But even back in the Kaiser Family Foundation Kaiser Health Tracking Poll of July 7-14, 2009, in an ambigious wording of the question, we still do not see the high numbers of the two misleadingly worded questions on Quinnipiac and CBS/NYT. Kaiser asks:

Do you favor or oppose this? Creating a government-administered public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans:

July 7-14: Support 59% Oppose 36 (23-point lead)

April 2-8: Support 67% Oppose 29 (38-point lead)

(Note the trendline; in three months, the lead dropped by 40%.)

The punchline is that, as usual, the exact wording of questions often determines the poll result. I am more than ever convinced that with my even more honestly worded version of The Question -- "Do you support or oppose allowing employers to drop the current private coverage of their employees in favor of a government-run health-care plan?" -- opposition would be even stronger, almost certainly a plurality.

Speculation aside, the cold fact is that voters have quite a disparate reaction to the government "option," depending on the wording of the question... that is, depending on how close it is to, or far from, the grotesque reality wending its way through Squeaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) House and Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid's (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) Senate: The more voters know about the actual provision, the more they recoil.

The lesson Republicans should draw from this fact is to keep pounding on this provision until every last voter knows what the liberals are really proposing; don't let Nan and Pinky intimidate us into silence.

And while we're at it, let's shine a light on some of the other widely disliked provisions as well:

  • Taxing the health benefits of working Americans;
  • Taxpayer funding of abortions;
  • Mammoth deficits marching into the future, caused by health-care "reform;"
  • Subsidizing the government plan while hogtying private plans in red tape;
  • And banning all private insurance that is not "qualified" -- where qualified means the plan must duplicate the gold-plated coverage the government will offer (at taxpayer expense)... thus cutting off the ability of the market to compete with the nanny state.

Find out when and where your congressman and your U.S. senators are holding a town-hall meeting; you may have to do a little digging, because after confronting angry voters time and time again, Democrats are probably going to start sending invitations only to registered Democrats (or perhaps only to their own campaign donors). Show up and politely but persistently demand answers to these vital questions.

They're your representatives; you have every right to insist they tell you where they stand... no matter how fishy such unObamic activities may sound to Linda Douglass.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 6, 2009, at the time of 3:50 PM

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The following hissed in response by: MikeR

"Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?" I think I might have said Yes to this as well. I saw another poll like this recently, can't remember where, with 76% Yes. Both polls gave me the same impression: The responder is not being asked if he supports health care reform. He's being asked if he should have a choice once it's there.

The above hissed in response by: MikeR [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 7, 2009 7:25 AM

The following hissed in response by: mary ann

Can we believe what is online as the "house health care bill"? If so, why don't polls ask such questions as "is it OK with you if the gov't can electronically transfer YOUR money to ITS bank"? Or how about, "is it OK with you that before your doctor orders a test, procedure, or drug for you, a gov't committee gives it thumbs up or down"? Now these are meaningful questions that can't be misinterpreted!!!

The above hissed in response by: mary ann [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 9, 2009 3:00 PM

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