The weird polling on repeal
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.
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