Health-Care Reform Is Popular. But the Bill Isn't.
These poll results are either very good for health-care reform or very bad. It's hard to say:
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll taken last week found its sample split 41 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving of Obama's efforts on health-care reform. The numbers are almost identical to Bill Clinton's scores on the same question in June 1994, the month his effort failed.
The same survey offered a preview of the debate that now awaits us. When voters were asked to rate Obama's health-care plan, 36 percent said it was a good idea and 42 percent called it a bad one. But later in the poll, when the interviewer read an accurate, neutrally phrased description of the main features of the plan that Obama supports, it commanded strong support -- winning approval 56 to 38 percent.
This isn't a surprising dynamic. It happen to ClintonCare in the 1990s. It happened to immigration reform. It happens to lots of major pieces of legislation. The bills themselves become controversial and confusing. Opponents lie about them and supporters don't explain them clearly. Soon enough, the public begins to back away from them slowly, unsure if anything this confusing can possibly solve the problem. But that doesn't mean the underlying ideas become unpopular, or people stop wanting action on the problem.
As David Broder points out, health-care reformers retain an advantage because Barack Obama is far more trusted than the Republicans who oppose his plan. But that means he somehow has to get the focus back on the ideas behind the bill and the problems that led to the bill. The longer that the story is about process and smears about specific lines of text, the lower the poll numbers will drop.
August 6, 2009; 11:32 AM ET
Categories: Health Reform , Polls
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