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The individual mandate is popular

From the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll:

Would you support or oppose a law that requires all Americans to have health insurance, either getting it from work, buying it on their own, or through eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid?

Support / Oppose / No opinion
10/18/09: 56 / 41 / 3

But wait! There's more!

(IF OPPOSE/NO OPINION LAW REQUIRING INSURANCE) What if the government gave financial assistance in getting health insurance to people with incomes below about 40-thousand dollars for an individual, and below 88-thousand dollars for a family of four? In that case, would you support or oppose a law that requires all Americans to have health insurance?

Support / Oppose / No opinion
10/18/09: 34 / 63 / 4

In other words, a solid majority supports the individual mandate. And a third of the opponents become supporters if they learn that there will be subsidies for people who can't afford insurance. I'm sure you can fashion attacks that scare people about this provision, but advocates aren't struggling against an underlying philosophical objection to the basic principle.

By Ezra Klein  |  October 20, 2009; 12:22 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform , Polls  
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Are those last 2 numbers switched?

Because as is, it looks like 2/3 of the people oppose a mandate with affordability.

Posted by: StevenAttewell | October 20, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I read it that way, too, Steven. Glad I'm not alone.

Posted by: gmart68b | October 20, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

This is the second year in a row that crazyville arrives upon America from maybe August through mid-September, then once you get to October things improve politically. Happened during the Obama campaign last year, and now with healthcare reform.

Next year I'm going off to Europe for a month, and read Hemingway rather than any politics until October for the sake of my own sanity.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | October 20, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

That confused me, too. But I think the answer lies in the "(IF OPPOSE/NO OPINION LAW REQUIRING INSURANCE)" language before the second question. I believe this means they only asked Question 2 if people we're opposed or had no opinion. Thus, like Ezra says, out of those who were opposed, who thus got the second question, 1/3 of them switched to support given government financial support.

Posted by: boyasunder | October 20, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse


The "affordability" follow-up was only asked of people who said they didn't support a mandate in regards to the first question.

Posted by: eleander | October 20, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I found it confusing too but it's clearer when you look at the chart -- 36% of the 47% who oppose mandates, change their minds if the plan includes subsidies. The net is that if subsidies are included, 71% support a mandate.

I on the other hand am opposed to shielding those with employer paid insurance from the realities of the market place while delivering a captive market to the private insurance industry. If 80% of Americans get their insurance through their companies, most of the respondents are under the false impression that by including subsidies, they are ensuring affordable care for everyone else. They are wrong.

Either put *everyone* in the country in private individual insurance with generous subsidies (as in Switzerland or the Netherlands) or organize some other way to finance a national health plan. What we do not need is an extension of the same dysfunctional, bankrupting patchwork that we have now.

Posted by: Athena_news | October 20, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"...but advocates aren't struggling against an underlying philosophical objection to the basic principle."

They are on the benefits tax!!! Huge numbers in opposition.

Posted by: rat-raceparent | October 20, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Eleander - thanks. That was really bugging me, and I'm not on enough sleep atm to figure it out.

Posted by: StevenAttewell | October 20, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

It is an article of faith in certain progressive quarters than individual mandates, even with subsidies, will be so unpopular with voters that they will hand the Legislature to the opposite party from whichever party brings them in.

This despite the fact that Massachusetts, the only state with an actual purchase mandate, with a fine, and without a public option, continues to have 2-1 support of its plan, and with no change in the legislature, mass civil disobedience, or much active opposition to speak of -- repeal polled 11%.

Posted by: davis_x_machina | October 20, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure where your figures for support of the Massachusetts program came from but fewer than 40% of the people who were supposedly "helped" by the mandate + subsidy are happy with it.

Posted by: Athena_news | October 20, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Boston Globe/Harvard School of Public Health poll, in Boston Globe of 9/28. (Comments boxes here don't take the HTML for links)

Posted by: davis_x_machina | October 20, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

So what this says is a goodly number of Americans favor government forcing me to pay for something I do not want. What's next? Will they be able to force me to sell my Ford and buy a Chevy? Where does the federal government get the constitutional authority for mandate the purchase of anything? This is a case for the SCOTUS.

Posted by: Zelsdorf2 | October 20, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

You're not reading the first question correctly. Its left unstated whom the legal requirement for all Americans to have health insurance would be appy to--- employer, individual or the government itself (e.g. Medicare is required to provide health insurance to virtually every American upon their 65th birthday).

Its a wonder that more people didn't say yes to question one. It is inclusive of everyone who supports an employer mandate ("getting it from work") OR an individual mandate ("buying it on their own") OR a single payer option ("through eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid")

In other words Ezra, you'd have been just as accurate if you had headlined this piece "The employer mandate is popular" or "Medicare is popular".

Posted by: beowulf_ | October 20, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

I agree with beowulf_. The survey question was worded so as to obscure who actually pays. Ask the question again after the first arrests for non-payment of this penalty and you'll get a much different answer.

And regarding the Massachusetts poll, 24% of people saying they are helped by the law is nothing to write home about. Also note that Massachusetts had fewer uninsured BEFORE reform than Texas, Florida, or California will have AFTER. Think about that before deciding if the Massachusetts experiment is applicable to the country at large.

Posted by: bmull | October 21, 2009 5:31 AM | Report abuse

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