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How did people learn about health-care reform?

The new Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll tells you pretty much what you already knew about health-care reform's poll numbers: Opinions are mixed, with disapproval (44 percent) slightly outpolling approval (41 percent). But this poll goes a bit deeper to try and assess how people formulated those opinions. In particular, it takes a look at their most important sources of information on the bill. And the most important, by far, was cable news:


This is, to say the least, weird. For one thing, many, many fewer people watch cable news than watch network news or listen to the radio. Yet this poll shows that cable news outranked both those sources in the "how did you learn about the law" question and in the "how important was this source in teaching you about the law" question. I'd hypothesize that this is because cable news offered more partisan commentary on the bill and that that commentary proved easier to assimilate into people's opinions, but I'm really just guessing. Then there's this graph showing which cable channels people got their news from:


But if you look at the ratings, CNN is not a shade smaller than Fox and more than three times as large as MSNBC. It reaches far fewer people than Fox and, at least recently, a few less than MSNBC. Obviously this poll could be an outlier, but I wonder if there's something weirder and more interesting here dealing with the way people think -- and thus remember -- that they get information.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 21, 2010; 1:46 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform , Polls  
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But Ezra, the question says cable news OR THEIR WEBSITES. So this doesn't imply that they are watching the crazies on Fox and forming their opinions that way. Fox's website does not take the same hyperpartisan approach as their cable show does.

Posted by: awktalk | May 21, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Something to keep in mind about these kinds of surveys is that studies have shown people are terrible at self-assessment. They radically over-estimate some things (like how much time they spend watching CNN or talking with friends and family) and radically under-estimate other things (like how much time they spend listening to talk radio). They tend to over-estimate how much time they spend doing things they consider good and under-estimate how much time they spend doing things they consider doing bad--even when they are aware that how much time they spend doing certain things is being objectively observed. It's not that they are trying to mislead poll takers, it's just that they are wildly inaccurate when reporting how many calories they consume or how much time they spend exercising vs. watching TV in a week.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 21, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Very favorable 14% Very unfavorable 32%
Independents against 49 - 37% Very unfavorable 32% Very Favorable 9%
Some good negative adds should be able to drop these numbers a lot lower for independents and help the repubs win the house.

Posted by: obrier2 | May 21, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

"They learned it from you, they learned it from watching you." The phrase, which comes from the AdCouncil spots regarding addiction, is something of a double-edged sword.

Many self-proclaimed "progressives" ignored math and fact, hailing the PPACA as a triumph of public policy. Now, as we today learn that all of the numbers were DELIBERATELY fraudulent -- invented by the HHS element of the Obama Administration solely for marketing purposes -- we must all begin to question which sources of information should be trusted and which should be rejected. As we consider the previously secret communications within the Obama Administration now released by order of the Court, we get to see just how much the PPACA will cost and can compare the true number with released by the Obama Administration to Congress and the people.

I wonder what will happen to the people who touted the PPACA as life-saving, deficit-reducing, and nation-building when the people I met at lunch today -- a cancer patient whose artificial limb is no longer covered, an expectant mother no longer able to circumcise her child, a veteran who must now return his powered wheelchair -- express their frustration about the PPACA. Will the Ezra Kleins of the world still hail the PPACA as the hallmark of a Great Society?

Posted by: rmgregory | May 21, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

In terms of ratings vs. where people gets information, you could say that FOX has a a large "constant" audience (watching the opinion programs) while people turn to CNN only occasionally to get some news. The result would be that many people got the info from CNN at different points in time but the ratings for a particular day won't not too high.

Posted by: jcmm1 | May 21, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

This is pathetic. It's no wonder that this once bill now law is misunderstood. People haven't read about it. How can you assess something this important and complex without reading about it?

Posted by: bcbulger | May 21, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

props to you Ezra for posting this poll. I saw it earlier today and didn't think you would!

this is just the tip of the iceberg i'm afraid. Wait until kids graduate in the next several weeks to find they can't stay on their parents plans because it doesn't renew until September or January or next March.

Or wait until their parents say "Ok if my child that just graduated can't stay on how about my child that dropped out of college or had to leave because we couldn't afford to pay for it. Can I add them back on?" The answer is no.

I tried to warn you its going to be the same mess that ARRA was (Thank God at least they're doing that until the end of the year).

How are those high risk pools going too? Aren't they due to open up 90 days after enactment? That's a month away so if people want to be enrolled and active they should start submitting applications in the next week or so. I'm sure the government won't goof that up.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 21, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

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