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Poll: Americans prefer a non-terrible Democratic Party

A new poll shows that opinions of Democrats rise slightly if they pass a health-care bill. That's even truer among independents. The rise is well within the margin of error, but it's a rise nonetheless. More important, almost, is the fact that it's not a drop. A lot of Democrats are afraid that passing the bill will anger the electorate. This poll offers no evidence for that view.

Rather, Democrats don't suffer for passing this bill. They excite their base, impress some independents and get to promote an accomplishment rather than apologize for a failure. Oh, and they make life a lot better for millions and millions of Americans. So what're you waiting for, Dems? Pass. The. Bill.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 3, 2010; 8:25 AM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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I've made this comment before but, really, I can't imagine turning up for the next round of elections if the Democrats fold on this. There's just no point. And now it looks like climate change legislation is in the toilet. It's heartbreaking.

Posted by: simmonslcsw | February 3, 2010 8:37 AM | Report abuse

What are they waiting for? Obama has decided to wait until after he loses seats in the midterms. Then he'll come back to it.

Which is practically equivalent to deciding to bag it. If he'd act like a leader, or even, say, like a community organizer and broker a deal between the House and the Senate he'd have a bill by the end of the week. Instead, he's going to let a marginal situation become impossible after the midterms and lose the whole thing.

The sticking point, as I see it, is that the House is demanding the Senate pass a reconciliation fix to a law that doesn't exist yet and then the House will vote on passing the law. The Senate parliamentarians aren't sure this is even legal to do. Everyone is spinning their wheels while we wait to find out.

This is exactly the sort of situation that a leader should step into, an independent party who has the power to hold the Senate's feet to the fire and insure that they vote on reconciliation after the House votes on the bill.

But no. We're gonna wait instead. This president views himself as essentially powerless in the legislative process.

When the DNC called asking for money last week, I told them to go screw themselves. Republicans are evil. But Democrats are stupid. And I'm not throwing my hard earned money after stupid.

I'm also going to have a hard time pushing the button for stupid in the fall. I might just stay home.

Posted by: pj_camp | February 3, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Dem leaders are imposters.

They ran on health care but never believed they would have the votes to enact it. Dem leaders have received boatloads of health insurance campaign money.

But now that they had the votes (until recently) they then ran a scam empowered by Blue Dogs to at least weaken the bill.

And then they realized if they put up a weak candidate in MASS that maybe the GOP would win that seat and give the Dems cover for not being able to pass health care.

They could pass the bill today if they wanted.

Polls overwhelmingly suggest Americans want health care.

The reason it hasn't been enacted is because Dem leaders don't want to pass it and never did.

Dem leaders are no different than the GOP.

They even trade votes among themselves on key issues to lend cover to Dems in conservative areas. Curiously, there are always just enough Dem votes to assist GOP issues (Bush tax cuts, IWR, nafta, Medicare-D, etc) but never enough Dem votes to assist key Dem issues (health, cap-trade, tax raises).

Posted by: Lomillialor | February 3, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, you should know that a rise within the margin of error isn't "a rise, nonetheless." Uncertainties don't work that way. If it's within the margin of error, then it is as good as no change.

Posted by: mschol17 | February 3, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Ezra I love you but I have to agree with mschol17 on this one. I didn't catch that in the post. The Democrats will lose seats no matter what in the mid-terms. Why not lose seats after having done some good?

Posted by: simmonslcsw | February 3, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

"Curiously, there are always just enough Dem votes to assist GOP issues (Bush tax cuts, IWR, nafta, Medicare-D, etc)"

Which isn't necessarily a good thing to the base. I don't think there are many conservatives who supported Medicare-D. And Clinton was the champion of NAFTA--without Clinton, I doubt that would have happened.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 3, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

The polls might also reflect the sigh of relief when the onerous health care bills DIED---just think---128 new committees of overhead DIED----

---Bills that use financial coercion of doctors, i.e.,Orszag's "worst practices" of lowest price treatment---- CER is often bad science according to Harvard MD Chair--see

Bills that contain many gifts to PhRMA, with mandated profits to insurance companies that go on forever----

--so Independent's are feeling safer now that the bills might be dead and perhaps more generous in a poll----

But few in US want these flawed bills except for Jour-o-lists and the health care "experts" that will get jobs serving those 128 committees

So pass this awful Senate bill---- a bill that 60% of the populace HATES, ----- that only 20% of seniors and 40 % of non seniors believe will help Medicare---bills that tax middle class health care plans as a feature----

---and revenge at the polls will be widespread.


We need real health care reform--not care and feeding of special interests ---- funded by cuts to the safety nets of the elderly and the middle class !!!!!

Tax those bankers and fat cats, negotiate down the retail price of drugs, streamline Medicare Advantage and put back in Trust fund-- just a start.

----and DEM pols--stop trying to rip off the people who voted for you or they WILL stop voting for you. DUH!!!!

Posted by: johnowl | February 3, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the sentiment. But I echo mschol17 above. If it's within the margin of error, it's not a rise. Period.

Posted by: returningtodc | February 3, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I've said this so often already that I probably sound tire. But I also won't show up for the November elections if the Democrats fail to pass the Senate health care bill. In fact, I can't really imagine giving money or otherwise supporting a Democrat for any office ever again. Punishing the party as a whole seems like the only way to react if they decide to cave in at this point.

Posted by: opinionpieces | February 3, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I don't see how not voting is any kind of protest. It will just elect repiglicans. I understand not giving them money, because they don't deserve financial support for doing a crappy job. But voting is a responsibility of any concerned citizen and when I go into the booth and have to choose between a mendacious, unprincipled democrat and a mendacious, unprincipled, batsh*t crazy, reactionary, war mongering, corporate and millionaire protecting, environmentally ruinous, antiscience, repiglican, well I think you see the point.

Posted by: srw3 | February 3, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

"The rise is well within the margin of error, but it's a rise nonetheless."

Um, no. If it's within the margin of error, then it's not a rise. That's what the margin of error means. Don't you read your own posts???

Posted by: whoisjohngaltcom | February 3, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

You seem to be hitting on this same point over and over again. I'm pretty convinced. What I need to understand is WHY aren't the Dems doing this? Have you covered this? This is the mystery that needs to be explained to many of us...

Posted by: Brian5 | February 3, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Intensity of support or opposition is also an important consideration. Other polls have shown that those strongly opposed to the HRC bill outnumber those strongly in favor by about 2-1. That imbalance helps to explain why opponents outnumber supporters at public hearings (and the polls).

Posted by: tbass1 | February 3, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

"Democrats don't suffer for passing this bill."

Which bill? The Senate bill? I'm not sure that would excite the Democratic base, except perhaps into a revolt.

Posted by: tomtildrum | February 3, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

It is amazing to read comments from condescending and arrogant jerks who think ramming a bill down the throats of an American public that doesn't want it is "doing some good". Moderate and conservative Democrats in districts that went for Bush and McCain are not going to walk the plank by voting for an agenda that the majority of the public is crying out to stop.

The arrogance is simply breathtaking.

Posted by: Bob65 | February 3, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

"Polls overwhelmingly suggest Americans want health care."

Polls may show that Americans overwhelmingly want "health care", but not one single poll shows majority, or even plurality, support for Obamacare. In fact it is the exact opposite.

Posted by: Bob65 | February 3, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

"Within the margin of error" is not equivalent to "no rise." That is a statistical fallacy.

Margin of error measures the probability of a result lying within a range around some median value. When margins of error overlap, that means there is a probability of no change, but also a probability of some change. Which is higher depends on the respective margins of error and the respective medians.

Kevin Drum explains it well here:

with a handy table. So, for example, if the margin of error in the poll is 3%, and the difference in medians is 1%, there is a 63% probability of an actual difference existing. That's significantly more probably than not, and certainly doesn't count as "no rise."

Posted by: pj_camp | February 3, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

"Americans prefer a non-terrible Democratic Party"

Can we put this on a banner, and distribute it to offices across D.C.? Maybe design a nice screen saver or something?

It's like they're living in some bizarre parallel universe. Why on earth do they think *anyone* will turn out to vote for a party that can't deliver any change meaningful enough to make a difference in people's lives?

"A lot of Democrats are afraid that passing the bill will anger the public"? For Christ's sake, what do they need? A popular referendum, with 100% in favor, before they can actually do anything?

There are clearly some who don't want anything to pass; but they don't like you anyway, folks. And you send a message to the rest of the country that you're too easily cowed by a misinformed, irrational, rude vocal minority to actually govern.

At a certain point, even loyal Dem voters would take a Republican who can follow through over Democrats who have some ideas-- maybe, they think?-- but are too frightened and inept to accomplish anything.

Posted by: jes7 | February 3, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

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