Is Health Care Reform Popular? The Democrats and the Polls Disagree

If I had a nickel for every half-truth or outright lie spoken by the Democrats on the floor of the House in the hours leading up to passage of the health care reform bill, I’d be able to eat at 7-Eleven for a month. The assault on veracity was truly brutal, but what I found most alarming was not the Democrats' attempt to build up their bill and diminish the opposition. Instead, it was the utter contempt they showed for their roles as “representatives.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas said that she was “standing with America and voting for America.” Rep. John Larson of Connecticut stated: “It is at the very core of all that America stands for.” Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland asserted: “This bill is not about partisanship, but it is about the American people.” Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut urged her House mates to “vote for history, vote for America today.”

When one looks beyond the torrent of populist rhetoric though, a much different picture emerges. The polling data depicts a very different portrait of the views of the American people on the Democrats’ health care reform proposals.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll (Oct. 30-Nov. 1) asked the question: “From everything you have heard or read so far, do you favor or oppose Barack Obama’s plan to reform health care?”

In their most current iterations prior to the House vote, the following polls asked a similar question: NBC News/Wall Street Journal (Oct. 22-25), ABC News/Washington Post (Oct. 15-18), CBS News/New York Times (Sep. 19-23), Associated Press /GfK (Oct. 1-5), Rasmussen Reports (Oct. 30-31), Pew Research Center (Sep. 30-Oct. 4), Quinnipiac University (Sep. 29-Oct. 5), and Ipsos/McClatchy (Oct. 29-Nov. 1).

On average these polls show that 44.8% of Americans are against this immense power grab, with 39.2% supporting it. If you drop the best and worst results (CBS News/New York Times and Pew Research Center), 47.6% of those polled are against the reform plans, with 41.3% supporting them. Using the second measure, the percentage gap between those that oppose the Democrats’ health care proposals and those that support them is greater than the margin by which Barack Obama defeated John McCain in last year’s election.

What’s more, the intensity of opposition is clearly stronger among those that oppose these reform proposals. The margin between those who were in strong opposition and those who were in strong support in the ABC News/Washington Post poll was 10 points and in the Rasmussen Reports poll the gap was 21 points. Contrast this with margins of 3 and 12, respectively, when looking at whether respondents simply favored the plans or were opposed.

Democrats may argue that given the strong opposition shown in Rasmussen’s, Ipsos McClatchy’s, and Pew Research Center’s data, they are right-of-center polls. But given that the sample also includes such well known bastions of free-market ideals like ABC News, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, and the New York Times, I think it is safe to say that the analysis isn’t compromised due to some skewed right selection of data sources. Whether or not it is skewed left, though, is certainly open to question.

The truth is, no matter what honest analysis you do of this principal poll question dealing with the Democrats’ health care proposals, in totality you find that Americans are opposed to these plans.

When you look a little deeper into these polls, the abuse of power displayed by the House Democrats in passage of their health care reform bill becomes plainer still.