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Americans Hate Everyone, Believe Everything

approvehealthcare.jpgWednesday's Wall Street Journal/NBC poll (pdf) is disappointing stuff. It's not so much that the American people have turned against Obama's health-care reform effort as they've turned against the legislative process in general. The graph at the right tells the story well: Americans disapprove of the job Obama is doing on health care. But they hate the job Republicans are doing. Which is not to say that the conservative attacks haven't been effective.

The poll tested a variety of assertions that were simply wrong -- Was health-care reform likely to include illegal immigrants? A government takeover of the system? Taxpayer-funded abortions? The government deciding when to end care for the elderly? -- to see whether the false attacks were falling flat or actually worming their way into the public consciousness. The answer? Worming. Definitely worming.


The public option, once supported by 76 percent of the poll's respondents, is now opposed by a plurality. Obama's plan still commands majority support if explained, but even that support has fallen in recent months. The poll is all bad news. The arguable exception is the devastating low numbers for the Republicans. But it's not clear they matter, really. The Republicans don't have to pass anything. They just have to kill something. A kamikaze mission is successful if it destroys the target.

There's a lesson in this for Democrats, though: Republicans have made a judgment that destroying health-care reform is a political winner regardless of its impact on their short-term popularity. Democrats, conversely, have spent a lot of time worrying about their short-term popularity rather than just muscling through a massive win on health care. The result? Their plan and their president are both a lot less popular than they were a few months ago. Caution and delay don't seem to be working out too well.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 19, 2009; 5:05 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform , Polls  
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"Their plan and their president are both a lot less popular than they were a few months ago. Caution and delay don't seem to be working out too well."

This was predictable. The rate of decline may be a little faster than expected, but not much. There's a reason Obama et al. were targeting a fast completion date for this. In some ways, while you've cautioned against overreacting when small milestones have been delayed, the overall cumulative effect is what's seen above. If I asked you in January if this polling would be predicted based on the actual course of events-- no bill in Senate or House by August-- I don't think your estimate on support would be that far off from reality. Of course, in your desire to defend the Dems/Obama in the actual course of events, you've minimized small day-to-day elements of failure the whole way through. Its not clear at what point you should've highlighted when the cumulative effect of these daily failures were a problem-- I'd say when it was clear no bill was coming before August-- but it was probably before today.

Posted by: wisewon | August 19, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

i think that things are getting better, and president obama deserves better press.
why doesnt the media focus on all that he is doing right.
he is still a very new president, who came into office in the worst of times.

1. homes sales are up in 38 states.
2. california's housing market is finally improving.
3. the stock market is improving.
4. israel is issuing no new building permits for new settlements.
(this is great progress, but has been little noted. this would
not have happened, had obama not been elected.)
5. we did not bomb any iranian military facilities. ( as might
have been the case, had anyone else been elected.)
6. obama is greatly restoring our broken image and relations
7. he is the first wonderful role model we have for young
in the white house in decades. (this may not matter to many
people, but it is truly important.)
8. we have a wonderful, new supreme court justice, which does
represent hope.
9. he is stopping roads from being built in our national parks
and halting all new uranium exploration permits by the
grand canyon.
10. he has already already improved health care with schip.
11. biotechnology will improve with expanded stem cell

i am going to wait to see what happens with health care reform. this was going to be a bear, and everyone knew it.
and i dont believe he wants to sink his presidency in afghanistan, so it there are no conclusions to be drawn there, yet.

give president obama a chance.
a few months into his presidency, and some of his most ardent supporters have already lost faith.
have patience. he is one human being, and i honestly believe he is doing the best that he can, under extraordinary polarized and difficult circumstances.

Posted by: jkaren | August 19, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

You know what would really be transformational? Let’s try having people pay the majority of their health care out of pocket and using insurance for catastrophic coverage.

I know I know, the free market has failed and people can’t afford to pay for their own health care but we’ve tried the government option with Medicare and Medicaid. What’s so transformation about more government? That’s just doubling down on the failure of government.

Quiz Question: If the average American consumes $6,000 in health care per year, how much does the average American pay in health care costs per year?

Posted by: kingstu01 | August 19, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

BTW, how is that Cash for Clunkers program going?

I'm sure the government will get better once they take over the simple business of health care.

Posted by: kingstu01 | August 19, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

The Repubs will now ,of course, say that Obamacare is hated by the public and that they performed like Heros for the nation, and the Blue Dog Dems will be shaking like leaves in a hurricane in their closets.

It's hard to say what the Labor Day to T-Day period will bring, but it seems like the skies will be cloudy all day.

This is, in my opinion, of believing in bipartisanship as the principle underlying a presidency when there never was any objective reason for believing that myth could be reality. This is Obama's fault.

Its not the only fault either. Ignoring the lawbreaking of torture and domestic spying by BushCo in the interest of looking only forward is another.

Pretending that the Afghan tribes and territory was a nation that could be resurrected with more US military effort is another.

He managed to get a bill on climate change through the House, without anything that will really deal adequately with the problem. Fail.

Believing that the US mountain of debt in the hands of financial thieves could be fixed with bailouts (instead of jail and bank failures) to return things to normal is yet another major misjudgement. His new name in this sector is Barak Hoover Obama.

But the biggest political error of Obama and his team was basing a campaign on change and hope and new direction and then delivering just more of the same old same old - and not expecting the crashed expectations would bring him down - that is the nearly criminal misuse of political capital in my lifetime. And he didn't even get an intern BJ.

This is the sorriest spectacle of ineptitude in my political memory extending back to Truman and Eisenhower. Nixon was a crook. Reagan was an empty fool. But Obama let down the hopes of several generations of Americans who were ready to believe in united national action - and now they will return to cynicism.

Its quite a record in six months.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | August 19, 2009 6:32 PM | Report abuse

stupidity and spinelessness, two trademarks of the Democratic party seem to be a ingrained trait. absent any direct PR sell by the Democrats, the Republicans will finish off the rest of the Obama term. they have had 30 years to fine tune the PR. the Democrats don't even respond.

stupidity and spinelessness. a Democratic tradition i see no change you can count on! oh Yes we can give it all away to the hounds of the opposition with our eyes closed!!

those angry people have been scammed but good!!
lol. some change. more corporate run government.

Posted by: BernardEckholdt | August 19, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

I think JimPortlandOR got it right. As a progressive, I want to also highlight the point that the buildup in Afghanistan easily overshadows the optimistic list put forward by jkaren. We've been watching incremental failure by the week. But, Ezra just sees incremental hope.

Posted by: goadri | August 19, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Fortune favors the brave.

Something Democrats never seem to learn.

Posted by: PorkBelly | August 19, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

12% to 21% lower costs with no change in health status. Now that sounds transformational...

"The primary indications are that properly designed CDH plans can produce significant (even substantial) savings without adversely affecting member health status. To the knowledge of the work group, no data-based study has emerged that presents a contrary view.

Cost-savings in the first year of instituting a CDH plan relative to a traditional plan ranged from 12% to 21%, remarkably large figures. Moreover, costs appear to grow more slowly under CDH plans than under traditional plans.

Generally, all of the studies indicated that cost savings did not result from avoidance of inappropriate care and that necessary care was received in equal or greater degree relative to traditional plans. All of the studies reported a signficant increase in preventative services for CDH participants."

Posted by: kingstu01 | August 19, 2009 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I see something positive in those numbers. Don't know if it's a trend as I don't know what the numbers looked like prior to the death panel nonsense--but it looks like fewer Americans think it likely that that the gov't would pull the plug on Grandma than there are Americans who actually believe that. Maybe that means that all the shrieking on death panels and the scoffing reactions to those accusations may have penetrated the low-info voter who would have previously believed that health care = killing old people. Perhaps the reason why the "likely" numbers are much higher for the other three beliefs is because there hasn't been a news cycle debating those beliefs in depth. Maybe someone needs to throw a hissy about abortion which would lead to a week of talking heads and nutballs screaming. Then calmer, more believable folks can point out, "no, you idiot, there will be ZERO funding for abortion." Because there won't be. But I could be very wrong.

Posted by: chines1 | August 19, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

I hope he fails. So, I'd say things are looking up!

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | August 19, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Since when does leadership mean reacting to polls. We can watch American devolve into a mass of gibbering idiots or we can try to do something about it.

Posted by: bmull | August 19, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

In answer to the query below they are politicians. Their only goal in life is to get re-elected. To get re-elected they have to have people vote for them, with the exception of the raising of the dead by Acorn. So if the politicians do not want to follow the polls they likely will not be in office in 2010 or 2012. Pretty easy.

We can watch America devolve into a banana republic or we can stand up and say no. No more spending, no more government take overs of private business, no more rubber stamping bills, no more too big to fail, no more debt, no more printing trillions of dollars, the list goes on.



Since when does leadership mean reacting to polls. We can watch American devolve into a mass of gibbering idiots or we can try to do something about it.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | August 19, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

The poll tested a variety of assertions that were simply wrong -- Was health-care reform likely to include illegal immigrants?


wow i LOVE this argument and finally I get to bring it up.

I'm sorry was I asleep and they repealed "EMTALA"? Illegals will STILL be in the system. Not only that but in 2010 the next liberal agenda of the "Path to Citizenship" will be put forth to replace OBama's independent votes with current illegal immigrants. Then I guess they can say they won't be illegal anymore by the time the public option or co-op is in place.

Listen its fine if you want to take over the country with your agendas and destroy capitalistic society, just be honest about your doing it.

I think that's simple enough to ask, right?

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 19, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Where can I take part in such polls?

Posted by: kamiopop | August 19, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

its funny I was at a healthcare town hall with Frank Pallone who I'm sorry to say is a NJ congressman (not mine but mine wasn't doing a town hall). It was populated with business owners and insurance agents.

You know what he found out?

NJ's mandates are already greater than any public plan in place.

NJ's already guaranteed issue (i'm hoping he already knew that but who knows)

And the biggest thing he learned. That today in Trenton the NJ SEH Board was notifying the Dept of Insurance that the loss ratio for insurers in 2007 ( i believe he said 2007 and not 2008 but i can't be sure) was 85%.

Horizon BCBS, the largest insurer was 88.2%.

My God those inefficent profit mongers in my state.

The only reform necessary in NJ is an individual mandate. That's it, no public option necessary thanks!

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 19, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Why are people against taxpayer funded abortions for those that cannot afford them? You would think with the overpopulation problem, people would be smart enough to want to prevent unwanted births, and adding to the carrying capacity of our planet. Sometimes I really think humans have their heads screwed on backwards and are just seeing the narrow minded view of their butts.

Posted by: skolniks | August 19, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse


I'm typing this real slow. The people who oppose taxpayer abortions would rather not pay to raise other people's children on welfare, but they also respect life too much to murder innocent babies. And they don't want it done on their dime.

Which part of that is too hard to understand???

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | August 19, 2009 11:37 PM | Report abuse

I am of the opinion that Republicans are probably happy that they are unpopular. It becomes much easier for them to promote the idea that government of any size is bad. Even if they are responsible for much of the bad. It's a zero sum game to them. We have to win at all costs. And Grassely is being a living embodiment of the Woody Allen line "I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that would have me as member" or to paraphrase Chuck "I wouldn't vote for a compromise that I negotiated even if it had everything that I wanted in it".

Posted by: mickster1 | August 20, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

It's not the health care system that is destroying America. It's the education. This level of stupidity is just mind blowing.

Posted by: impikk | August 20, 2009 1:27 AM | Report abuse

What kills Obama right now has nothing to do with his policies. No one can say that overall things are not better than they've been 6 months ago. What kills him is the bipartisanship crap. He gets no credit for that, he won't swing even one Republican voter to his side, and he loses the people who voted for you. Those people have no interest in bipartisanship with the party that ruined the country.
With the mandate he received and huge majority in congress, Obama shoud have run away with the ball. His Lincoln fetish may just destroy what can be a wonderful presidency.

Posted by: impikk | August 20, 2009 1:40 AM | Report abuse

"No one can say that overall things are not better than they've been 6 months ago."

I can think of two million unemployed people who might disagree.

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | August 20, 2009 2:22 AM | Report abuse

"I can think of two million unemployed people who might disagree."

so you are blaming a president who just came into office a few months ago, for the unemployment of two million people?
there are a number of economic indicators which show that there is improvement and hopefully, an end to the recession soon.
democrats now have a president who is attempting health care reform, has made an excellent appointment to the supreme court, is attempting to turn back some of the environmental horrors of the bush administration, opened up the doors for stem cell research, has tried to bring people no avail and takes blistering criticism for attempting to do that, passed schip, visits most parts of the world in the earliest months of his presidency, attempts to respectfully reach out to people in moslem countries, is a very, very brave man who conducts himself with great dignity, and humanity, shows respect to women, has tried to create an inclusive administration, has influenced israel to freeze permits for new settlements, has an articulate, highly intelligent press secretary who is constantly available... and has only been in office for a short time.
no-one could have expected that economic recovery could come more quickly, or that passing health care reform would be easy. i think the lack of patience and quickness to harsh judgement is a sad commentary, especially considering the dire straits the country was in when he took office.

Posted by: jkaren | August 20, 2009 3:15 AM | Report abuse

i just want to add that i dont think the lessons of viet nam and iraq are lost on barack obama.
i may be wrong, but i find it very hard to imagine that he wants or intends for the legacy of his presidency to be a tragic, bloody and endless war in afghanistan, filled with casualties and massive anti-war demonstrations at home.

Posted by: jkaren | August 20, 2009 3:44 AM | Report abuse

jkaren wrote:
"i just want to add that i dont think the lessons of viet nam and iraq are lost on barack obama.
i may be wrong, but i find it very hard to imagine that he wants or intends for the legacy of his presidency to be a tragic, bloody and endless war in afghanistan, filled with casualties and massive anti-war demonstrations at home."

Funny thing is, as far as I've seen, the Left's been fine with war since January 21. I guess it's the personality, not the policy.

Posted by: OttoDog | August 20, 2009 5:27 AM | Report abuse

I see the lack of trust in reform as mainly being due to the absurdity of reforming Healthcare alone. Today healthcare; tomorrow tax reform; next year banking reform; this type of solutions process will never yield satisfactory results. That being said the US needs a solution vastly different from countries like Europe where people are happy to have 10% of their income subtracted monthly for sub-standard health care.

Instead the Obama Administration should look to paint with a broad stroke:

Stop transferring funds from individuals to the government and back and set up a Citizen's Basic Income, from which healthcare insurance must be paid.

Replace income tax, property tax, corporate tax etc etc with one flat transaction tax covering every transaction in the econonic system.

Cover everyone with the Healthcare insurance of their choice and tax consumption instead of productivity.

Posted by: coertevanv | August 20, 2009 6:58 AM | Report abuse

Sorry countries IN Europe in above

Posted by: coertevanv | August 20, 2009 7:00 AM | Report abuse

@impikk: "It's not the health care system that is destroying America. It's the education. This level of stupidity is just mind blowing."

Needs to be repeated. Although don't confuse stupidity with willful ignorance and anti-intellectualism. Some people (apparently 30 million or so) need their ideology reinforced by propagandists to be comfortable. I don't get it, but then again, neither does 80% of the country. And I'm okay with that.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | August 20, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Always a delight to see Ezra Klein look down his elitist nose at the ignorant American people.

Perhaps the problems is that the health reform push started with a lie as its foundation -- "if you like your health plan, you'll be able to keep it." Once the government option advocates begin this debate with a falsehood, it's a mite hypocritical to accuse opponents of doing the same.

Posted by: FreeMas | August 20, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

In the WSJ/NBC poll #8, isn't this question kinda like "Heads they win, tails we lose"?

8. Thinking about efforts to reform the health care system, which would concern you more?

Not doing enough to make the health care system better than it is now by lowering costs and covering the
uninsured. OR

Going too far and making the health care system worse than it is now in terms of quality of care and choice
of doctor.

Not doing enough ............................. 41 [155]
Going too far ..................................... 54
Not sure .......................................... 5

Posted by: jshafham | August 20, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

"Americans Hate Everyone, Believe Everything"

Well, not all Americans. But that does seem to be a fair description of liberals.

Posted by: malclave | August 20, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"The public option, once supported by 76 percent of the poll's respondents, is now opposed by a plurality."

This is comparing apples and oranges because the pollsters reworded the question (in part by removing the word "choice"), starting in July. The change is suspicious because "the Republican half of the bipartisan team of pollsters behind a new, controversial poll on health care has longstanding ties to the health insurance industry that critics say biased the results."

SurveyUSA has a new poll that uses the NBC's old wording and finds 77% still think a public option is important.

I think it also calls into question the whole poll. To me, the question about pulling the plug on grandma was badly worded because it asked if the bill would "allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly", not if it would actually be done.

The bottom line is that support has not changed for the public option.

Posted by: bonyfingers | August 20, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

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