August 08, 2017
Don't Believe the Obamacare Polls
John F. Gaski
Perhaps the most pathetic aspect of the Republicans’ fiasco on Obamacare repeal is how clumsily they allowed themselves to be manipulated by their political enemies, once again. Conspicuous among the GOP failures was its gullible acceptance of poll results appearing to show renewed public support for Obamacare. Specifically, the Republican Senate was unnecessarily spooked by questionable and outright phony numbers.
As a practitioner of survey research and a specialist in questionnaire design who has also done public opinion polling for over 35 years, I can enlighten the Republicans with some basic coaching on nuances of the subject matter and their derived blundering nuances that are not very nuanced.
Don't Believe Everything You Read
First, concerning the apparent poll findings to the effect that support for Obamacare has recently surpassed opposition, how much do you (and Republican senators) think questionnaire respondents actually know about the law or the Republican alternatives? Other than a small minority with direct experience with Obamacare, mass public ignorance would prevail, as it almost always does among our country’s dumbed-down populace.
Obamacare has been the “Big Lie” since its inception and many have been fooled. Recall “you can keep your doctor; you can keep your plan.” If the Democrats can get so much public opinion mileage out of deception, why don’t Republicans consider that they might have even more of an impact on the people by using the truth? The right’s public communication efforts have been beyond amateurish, especially in light of their raw material advantage, i.e., a bad existing law.
Related to this polling insight, a corollary: Whatever the Obamacare pro and con metrics are and they actually are close to an even split now they result from a relentless propaganda campaign executed by the Democrats and the Democrat media (it is long-overdue for this locution to be applied) designed to defame Republican plans for repeal. On the other side are the hapless Republican tactics, and yet public opinion on Obamacare is roughly evenly divided.
The strategic point is that reshaping national attitudes against Obamacare is easily within reach, and it always has been because the law is a bad product. Even Democrats will agree with that privately because Obamacare was designed to fail and therefore lead to a single-payer system. So Republican senators need not be so fearful of public backlash against a repeal vote.
Question the Questions
One more tip for our ace Senate Republicans: As even neophytes know, and senators should know, much depends on how a survey question is asked. Republicans do need to be more skeptical of poll results generated by generally hostile organizations.
Finally, concerning the “phony” descriptor attached earlier, Republicans should be reminded not to overlook the notorious tendency for public polls to over-sample and Democrats. Even the latest polls on Obamacare reflect this, with Economist/YouGov incorporating an 11-point Democratic advantage among its sample, and Fox typically showing a five- or six-point margin for Dems. Even the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reports a six-point Democrat sampling edge.
Nevertheless, the latest Real Clear Politics average is only a 45-43 percent plurality of support for Obamacare. If Republicans cannot reverse this deficit through messaging and good policy, they are even more inept than they appear.
Heaven help our country because Republican incompetence and Democrat cynicism have us on a trajectory toward a government takeover of the medical system. In other words, “single payer” means the federal government gains total power over life and death for all citizens, the Democrats’ dream scenario.
Pleasant dreams indeed, America. Thanks a lot, Republicans.
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