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Posted at 4:13 PM ET, 01/18/2011

The weird polling on repeal

By Ezra Klein

Over e-mail, Greg Sargent asks if I'll comment on the growing divide between polls that ask if Americans support repealing the Affordable Care Act, yes or no, and polls that give them more options:

It's becoming more and more obvious that polling on whether the public supports repeal of health reform turns very, very heavily on the question’s wording. Specifically: Polls that offer a straight-up choice -- do you support full repeal, or do you support letting the law stand as is? -- show more support for repeal.

But polls that take a finer-grained approach by offering a range of options, including partial repeal and expanding the law, find less support for doing away with it entirely.

Health-care reform polls are frustrating to reformers and opponents of reform alike. The vast majority of Americans think the system needs a complete overhaul, but that their insurance is good. The Affordable Care Act is a bad bill, but pretty much everything in it is great.

Operationally, I'm not sure what the repeal polls actually mean for anybody. My strong hunch is that, like health-care reform, repeal is going to be more difficult when its proponents have to talk specifics. But since its proponents don't have the votes for repeal, they're not really going to have to do that -- or at least not for a while. And in that time, more and more of the bill's benefits will come online, and passions over it will fade. There's some evidence that this is already happening, in fact.

But for now, I'm not sure the polls matter very much, at least right now. Indeed, the thing I think is most dangerous about them is that the bill's poor numbers could embolden the conservatives on the Supreme Court to rule against the individual mandate.

By Ezra Klein  | January 18, 2011; 4:13 PM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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Next: What debate?


Surely you're not suggesting that our Supreme overlords are influenced by public opinion or political considerations? The horror!

Posted by: _SP_ | January 18, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I think there is more consistency than you acknowledge.

I'm pretty sure that the polls have consistently shown a majority favoring reform, i.e., favoring the law or wanting something stronger. A majority that has now grown to 62% in the latest AP poll. Part of the confusion is that news reports seldom aggregate the numbers that way, and the break-down depends on wording or order of questions. Instead, they often aggregate those wanting more with those wanting less as "unfavorable", which it seems to me is misleading.

But favor-or-expand has always out-polled reject-or-reduce. And it's getting stronger with time.

Posted by: jtmiller42 | January 18, 2011 4:46 PM | Report abuse

And where was the consideration of polls when Dems were trying to pass ObamaCare? The polls clearly showed that the public didn't want the bill.

*NOW* Ezra care about polls.

Not so much then.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | January 18, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

WrongfulDeath: Not so. See comment above. Many who "didn't want the bill" wanted more not less. Liberals wanted more, but supported passage in the end. And they (we) certainly oppose repeal. You're falling into the meme and false syllogism that the reform was "unpopular" because a majority was "unfavorable" to the bill; therefore they support repeal.

No. A clear majority always preferred the bill, now the law, to Republican negation.

Posted by: jtmiller42 | January 18, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

A clear majority opposed ObamaCare from the get-go, get your facts straight. It was forced down Americas throats by a minority that wanted it and a majority of idiots in Congress that don't know who they represent.

Posted by: jhnjdy | January 18, 2011 9:36 PM | Report abuse

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