More Proof That Americans Like Free Beer

Yesterday I linked to an Iowa poll, the healthcare reform component of which I suggested was proof positive that Americans support things that they don’t have to pay for, cold comfort in a day in which the federal deficit has risen to historic levels and unless something rather dramatic changes will continue at such levels for the foreseeable future. Today Newsweek presents another poll which they claim as proof that Americans would support healthcare reform if they understood what was in it.

Here are the poll’s questions about healthcare reform:

Do you favor or oppose:

  1. Requiring that all Americans have health insurance, with the government providing financial help to those who can’t afford it
  2. Requiring most businesses to offer health insurance to their employees, with tax incentives for small business owners to do so
  3. If health coverage is required for everyone, imposing fines on individuals who don’t obtain coverage and on larger businesses that don’t offer it
  4. Requiring health insurance companies to cover anyone who applies, even if they have a pre-existing medical condition
  5. Creating a government-administered public health insurance option to compete with private plans
  6. Creating a new insurance marketplace – the Exchange – that allows people without health insurance to compare plans and buy insurance at competitive rates
  7. Preventing insurance companies from dropping coverage when people are sick
  8. Imposing a tax on insurers who offer the most expensive health plans, the so-called Cadillac plans, to help pay for health care reform

Strong majorities in favor of the benefit components of the plan (a, b, c, f, g) and either tepid support or outright opposition to the cost control or other implementation components of the plan (d, e, h). Contrary to Newsweek’s analysis that doesn’t demonstrate that Americans would support either of the plans passed by the Congress. What is proves, as I noted yesterday, is that Americans are in favor of free beer, something that scarcely requires polling.

It should also be noted that the poll is of registered voters rather than likely voters. I would love to see how this identical poll fared among likely voters.

If the objective is to learn what voters think about the healthcare reform plans that that the Congress has been working on, it is ill-suited to the task. The questions are simply mal-constructed. You need to link the costs and the benefits rather than separating them, relatively harder to do than the task they essayed. Questions would need to be of the form “Would you support…even if it meant higher taxes (longer waits, less access, etc.)”.

The only thing actually to be learned from this poll is that Newsweek’s editors support healthcare reform as it’s being passed through the Congress. It’s an act of advocacy rather than a genuine attempt at uncovering the whole truth.

BTW, the political affiliation components of the poll don’t afford much comfort to Republicans. Congressional Republicans, the visible face of the Republican Party, remain in bad odor. However, the level of general dissatisfaction is very, very high which doesn’t bode well for the party in power.

Frankly, I’m skeptical of the sampling in this poll as well. Self-identification as moderate is notoriously lousy. Most people are moderate from their own viewpoint (omphalos, the center of the universe). Ideological stance is better determined with screening questions than by self-identification.

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