I have griped in the past about how pollsters manipulated the phrasing of questions or the range of choices to get the answers that they seek. However, I'd like to address a different concern: how media outlets report on the results of such polls.
This morning, Politico featured an article entitled "Poll: 54 percent against Obamacare."
Upon seeing that, you probably immediately thought about how many conservatives oppose the law despite their support of individual provisions and got yourself ready for a refreshing political rant. But, wait, the results leave a different impression than the headline creates.
The CNN/ORC International poll cited presented respondents with three options: (a) they support the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), (b) they oppose it because it is "too liberal" (I would call them the "repeal" crowd), or (c) they oppose it because it "isn't liberal enough" (I would call them the "strengthen" crowd).
A 43% plurality expressed support for the health care bill. 35% opposed the bill because it was "too liberal." 16% opposed the bill because it "isn't liberal enough."
The "not liberal enough" crowd would, I would infer, include those upset about the rejection of the public option, the inherent conservatism of the ACA (I mean, come on, the individual mandate came from the Heritage Foundation, the dismissal of single-payer as even an option despite its effectiveness in Canada, or its failure to achieve fully universal coverage. This group wanted a stronger health care bill, one that enshrines the right to health found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Even though I (obviously) oppose the Republican efforts of repeal, if interviewed for such a poll, I would have put myself in the "not liberal enough" category because I think the bill doesn't go far enough, and I would want that view properly represented.
Rather than look at the results in the reductionist framework of support/oppose, I would suggest combining the "support" and "strengthen" categories together because those two groups represent the constituency for universal health care. Together, then, you have 59%--nearly a super-majority--saying that they think Obamacare should be kept or strengthened. Joining "support" and "strengthen" reminds me of Senator Tom Harkin's description of ACA as a "starter home" for health care reform, noting, "This bill is the beginning of health reform, not the end."
This reminds me of a statistic I read recently about the public's view of health care as a right. Back in 1991, for the bicentennial of the Bill of Rights, the American Bar Association commissioned a poll to test public knowledge and opinion about the Bill of Rights. Although most people couldn't identify the purpose of the Bill of Rights, almost 3 out of 4 said that they would like the Constitution to guarantee adequate health care for all Americans.
I would love to go into more detail about the demographics of support, but the link to the PDF of poll results on CNN doesn't work for me. Unsurprisingly, however, the demographics that support the ACA are those who voted for Obama:
A majority of younger Americans favor the new health care law; support among other age groups falls as low as 31% among senior citizens. Only a third of whites support the law, compared to six in 10 non-whites. Obamacare also wins majority support in urban areas and in the Northeast, the bluest region of the country.I would be curious to see the demographics of the "strengthen" crowd. If the link works for you, feel free to post the info!