Republican Spin Doctors Misdiagnosing Obamacare

Republican spin doctors are emboldened by public opinion polls that consistently find that a majority of Americans disapprove of Obamacare. For instance, this morning’s Star Tribune carried a New York Times News Service story that was typical of the superficial poll coverage you usually see in the news. The headline read:

“47 percent disapprove of health care law, poll finds”

That headline is perfectly accurate, and Republicans think those findings are, as the Vice President would say, a “BFD.” They conclude that Americans oppose Obamacare because it is an overly radical “government takeover of health care.”

But it would behoove GOP spin doctors to probe more deeply into recent public opinion research. Because a more thorough reading of polls shows Republicans are on shaky ground with their promises to repeal Obamacare and replace it with some kind of a scaled back alternative.

For example, a March 2012 Pew Research poll found 45% disapprove of Obamacare. Romney wins, right?

Not so fast. The same Pew poll also probed why people disapprove, and it turns out that 53% of Americans either want to do as Democratic candidates suggest, “leave it as is” (20%) or “EXPAND IT” (33%), while only 38% want to do what the GOP field wants, to “repeal it.”

That doesn’t exactly look like Americans rising up against “government takeover of health care,” as GOP candidates continually portray it. According to that poll, most Americans want Obamacare as is, or supersized.

Likewise, a March 2012 Bloomberg poll finds that 57% either agree that the Affordable Care Act “may need small modifications, but we should see how it works” (46%) or “it should be left alone” (11%), while only 37% who think “it should be repealed.”

And then there is a March 2012 Kaiser poll. It finds that 41% of Americans support the Republican solutions of either “repeal and not replace” (23%) or “repeal and replace with a GOP alternative” (18%), while a larger group of 47% supports the Democratic solutions of either “keep law as is” (19%) or “expand the law” (28%).

Finally, Republicans who conclude that those top line Obamacare disapproval numbers indicate that Americans prefer to have Republicans fixing health care in the post-Supreme Court ruling world may want to read further into that Pew poll. Pew found a large plurality of Americans saying that Democrats would “do a better job dealing with health care,” with 49% preferring Democrats and just 35% preferring Republicans.

In other words, be careful what you wish for, Tea Partiers. If the Supreme Court blows up Obamacare, voters may very well prefer to elect Democrats to come up with Plan B.

Reading the top line Obamacare disapproval numbers without digging more deeply into voter research is spin doctor quackery. It’s like a physician concluding that a patient with a headache has a brain tumor, without first digging into detailed diagnostic scans and lab results.

– Loveland

Something About Mitt

One of the limitations of polling is that respondents sometimes give answers they think will please the interviewer, rather than answers that reflect their true feelings. They do this because they believe their true feelings may be at odds with societal norms. In the public opinion research world, this is referred to as “social desirability bias.”

For instance, a survey respondent who senses that religious tolerance is a dominant norm in society is less likely to want to admit to a stranger conducting a survey interview that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism makes the voter less likely to vote for Romney.

But an interesting thing happens when pollsters approach the issue from a slightly different angle. When Pew Research asked respondents to provide one word that comes to mind when they hear a candidate’s name, we get a glimpse of what is top-of-mind with voters.

Top-of-mind.

You might expect that terms dominant in Romney-related media coverage or ads might rise to top-of-mind status with voters, terms like “Romneycare,” “job creator,” “flip-flopper,” “front-runner,” “slick,” and “businessman.” After all, those topics and descriptors are dominant Romney-related topics in the campaign.

But they aren’t what sticks the most for the most for voters. The number one word that popped into voters’ minds, among both the general public and Republicans, is…

“Mormon.”

Keep in mind, I can’t recall a single ad airing about Romney’s religion. The subject has come up only fleetingly in debates, with Romney’s opponents largely shrugging off the issue. Yet “Mormon,” above all else, is what sticks in voters’ minds, while “Catholic” is not even on the public’s radar when it comes to Newt Gingrich.

This doesn’t tell us that the Mormonism is viewed as a negative by all or even most voters. But the fact that a) “Mormon” is voters’ dominant summation of Romney and b) Romney can’t seem to get get any traction with GOP primary and caucus voters leads me to believe that Mormonism is a bigger factor in this race than many want to admit.

– Loveland

Clear Electoral Mandate On Obamacare

THIS POST HACKED.

The Uprising of 2010: Tea Partyism or Smorgasbordism?

THIS POST HACKED.

Blogospheric Pollution

THIS POST HACKED.

New News is Mostly No News

Pew Research Center: How News Happens

“New Media” produces almost no new news, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Baltimore area news stories.

Pew found that eight out of 10 stories in the Baltimore area contained previously published information. About 95% of the stories with original content came from mainstream media sources, mostly newspapers. According to Pew, only 4% of the new news comes from New Media.

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Teabaggers Not Listening to “The People”

Americans are conservative in the abstract, but liberal in the specific.

That’s the message from a Pew Research survey released today. While 53% say the abstract notion of “deficit reduction” should be a “top priority,” most also want to INCREASE spending on nearly every type of government endeavor, and don’t want to cut anywhere.

Despite the growing deficit, the survey found that a plurality of Americans want to spend MORE, not less, on health care, energy, education, veterans’ benefits, Medicare, military defense, assistance for the unemployed, combating crime, and environmental protection (in order of most support to least).

The survey found almost no support for the more libertarian viewpoints expressed at Tea Party and Ron Paul rallies. For instance, just 6 percent support cutting spending on the massive Medicare entitlement program, or “government-run health care.”

The only two areas in which a plurality of Americans didn’t support more spending were 1) international humanitarian assistance and 2) funding for the State Department and American embassies. But even in these least popular areas, those who wanted to keep funding the same or increase it still overwhelmingly outnumbered those who wanted to decrease funding.

The Pew findings indicate that conservatives who blame government spending on “politicians who don’t listen to ‘we the people’” are themselves not listening to the people. According to this surey, the politicians supporting more government spending are representing the will of most Americans. If the Tea Parties want a smaller government and a democratically responsive government, they should be shouting down their pals at home, not their pols in DC.

– Loveland

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