Maggie Mahar responds to my response to her critique of Michael Tanner’s claim that ObamaCare is deeply unpopular. Mahar’s alternative narrative, espoused by many on the Left, is that “the more voters learn more about the reform legislation, the more they seem to like it.”
Mahar shows that her narrative works if you begin looking for a trend at the high-water mark of opposition, if you look at a few select polls, if you look at not-so-straightforward poll questions, if you interpret simultaneous declines in both support and opposition as growing support, and if you devise a rationale for ignoring the views of those who most oppose ObamaCare. Which is to say, her narrative doesn’t work. ObamaCare remains deeply unpopular.
Mahar claims that support for repealing ObamaCare has been trending downward since reaching its high water mark of 63 percent on May 22, as measured by the polling firm Rasmussen Reports. This was shrewd; if you’re going to look for a downward trend, the high water mark is an excellent place to start. But it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what’s been happening with public support for repeal. Starting on the enactment date, as I wrote before, “Rasmussen finds opposition to repeal hovering between 32-42 percent, and support for repeal hovering between 52-63 percent, with no clear trend on either side.” No clear trend, and a majority consistently supports repeal. Check out Rasmussen’s data and see for yourself.
Next, Mahar selects a few polls that do support her narrative (e.g., Gallup, NBC/Wall Street Journal, Kaiser Family Foundation). For example, in her first post, Mahar cites an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll from June that suggests voters would prefer a Democratic congressional candidate who didn’t want to repeal ObamaCare over a Republican who did. Aside from the results being barely statistically significant, the question she cites introduces confounding factors such as party affiliation. When that same poll asked a more straightforward question, it found that 47 percent of respondents would be enthusiastic about or comfortable with a candidate’s desire to repeal ObamaCare, compared to 40 percent who would have reservations or be uncomfortable.
Moreover, selecting just a few polls probably paints a less accurate picture than looking at something like Pollster.com, which aggregates all polls and therefore (presumably) cancels out the quirkiness of individual polls.
The above graph shows that opposition to ObamaCare surged after Obama’s inauguration and surpassed support just as the debate began in earnest in July 2009. (That rising opposition fueled the angry town halls of August 2009.) In other words, from the moment the public began to focus on ObamaCare, they didn’t like what they saw, and opponents have out-numbered its supporters for 12 months now. (Note: the above graph only includes polls that ask the straightforward support/oppose question. It does not include Rasmussen’s polls showing broad and deep support for repeal, nor the NBC/Wall Street Journal and Kaiser Family Foundation polls Mahar cites, which show weaker support for repeal. It would be interesting to see Pollster.com aggregate the “repeal” polls.)
When Mahar turns her attention to all available polls, she argues, “if you’re looking for a trend, it’s only sensible to begin the day the bill was signed, March 23.” Why?
It was only after the final bill was passed, that people could begin to offer an opinion.
How true that is. Also: mere voters can hardly be expected to offer an opinion about would-be presidents until after Inauguration Day.
One would think that Mahar would only insult the public’s intelligence, and dismiss the views that a plurality/majority of adults consistently expressed for 9 months, if it would help to bolster her argument. But it doesn’t. When we look at the trend in public opinion on ObamaCare since the signing ceremony, we see that opposition and support are declining:
If the trendline showing declining opposition to ObamaCare supports Mahar’s narrative (“the more voters learn…the more they seem to like it”), the trendline showing declining support for ObamaCare supports the opposite narrative (“the more voters learn, the less they like it”).
But recall that Mahar claims that voters are warming to ObamaCare. When we look only at polls of adults who are registered to vote, there doesn’t appear to be any change since ObamaCare became law:
Looking just at voters also reveals that the opposition leads support by an even wider margin (9.5 percentage points).
(NB: These Pollster.com graphs will update automatically as new polling information becomes available, which may affect the trendlines. My description of the trends and the numbers I cite are current as of July 26, 2010. Also, readers using Internet Explorer have reported difficulty seeing the trendlines in user-generated graphs from Pollster.com.)
Finally, Mahar channels Marion Barry, who (in)famously claimed that if you don’t count murders, the crime rate in Washington, D.C., is really quite low. She cites a poll that “suggests that opposition is largely confined to the one group that already has universal coverage–seniors,” and then invokes Ezra Klein’s rationale for dismissing their opinions:
[S]eniors, of course, aren’t opposed to government-run health care. They love their Medicare, and insofar as they have a policy concern here, it’s that the Affordable Care Act will interfere with the single-payer system they rely on.
It is nonsense to say that ObamaCare is popular if we just ignore the views of people who will suffer. If ObamaCare weren’t taking the money for its insurance-company bailouts new government spending out of Medicare, it would have to take that money from somewhere else and those people would be angry. (Actually, since those Medicare cuts probably won’t happen, we’ll get to see that scenario play out.) Even if ObamaCare were popular among non-seniors, all Mahar and Klein would have established is that massive new government entitlement programs would be popular if we didn’t have to pay for them.