Lies, Damned Lies, and Health Care Polls

Ezra Klein points to a new ABC/WaPo poll showing a solid majority support “a law that requires all Americans to have health insurance, either getting it from work, buying it on their own, or through eligibility for Medicare or Medicaid.” Further, the same poll finds a third of those who oppose would switch sides “if the government gave financial assistance in getting health insurance to people with incomes below about 40-thousand dollars for an individual, and below 88-thousand dollars for a family of four.”

Kevin Drum is intrigued and guesses the phenomenon likely pretty common.

I’m pretty sure you could quote a couple of lines from Jabberwocky, ask an “in that case” followup question, and get a fair number of people to change their minds.  So what I’d like to know is: what’s the average flip rate?

He thinks figuring this out would be a useful project for political scientists, adding yet another data point to Dan Drezner‘s suspicion that those of our ilk are becoming more policy-relevant.

I’m sure Kevin’s right that there’s a flip factor.  Partly, people just want to seem agreeable and reasonable.  Mostly, though, adding a lot of caveats just makes poll questions more confusing.

And the ones Ezra cites above are, frankly, pretty damned confusing.  The initial question is beyond double barreled, throwing so many things into the pot that I’m surprised they found 41% to oppose.  A “law that requires all Americans to have health insurance” sounds pretty good on the surface and talk about the employer or Medicare paying for it obscures the actual policy choice.  If, on the other hand, the question were phrased, “Would you support or oppose a law forcing Americans who do not have health insurance through their employer or the government to pay for it out of their own pocket or go to jail?” support would go down tremendously!

Similarly, if the follow-up were phrased, “Would you be willing to pay more in taxes so individuals making under $40,000 a year — or  $88,000 for families– could get free health insurance from the government?” I’m guessing it wouldn’t do so well.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Stan says:

    According to this poll,

    http://tinyurl.com/cllmsy

    you’re wrong.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Stan,

    I’ve seen the CBS poll and similar ones. In the abstract, most of us would likely support somewhat higher taxes to ensure the poor were covered.

    When one starts defining “the poor” as those making $40,000 or $88,000, however, support almost certainly dries up. Mine certainly does.

  3. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Stan, I don’t want you to take a dime from me to pay for someone elses medical services. Health care is a product. If you want it, earn it. Next you will be having me buy you a car and a house. If you want freedom you are in the right country, if you want socialism move. I will fight to keep my freedom.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    I don’t want you to take a dime from me to pay for someone elses medical services.

    Your dimes are already taken to pay for Medicare and Medicaid….should we end those programs? Furthermore, your dimes are also taken to pay for the health care administered in emergency rooms to people who can’t pay…should we end that too?

  5. steve says:

    My dont we all make lists of things we dont want our dimes to pay for?

    Steve

  6. t22 says:

    Last night on the local news there was a story about a home invasion in a poor part of town where the robbers stole the large screen plasma TV of the victim. A doctor friend volunteers at a free clinic and he knows some of the people that come in. Many of these have no problems hosting big parties to watch the latest soccer match on their big screen TVs either. How about a means test? First, do you have more than one vehicle? Yes, then sell it. TV’s? Microwaves? Cellphones for you and the kids (ever see a kid without one?) Get rid of them all and then we’ll start talking about assistance.

    Let’s start putting some real numbers in this too. If 100 people get health care today and 80 people are paying a buck each to pay for it and 20 percent are paying none, then the cost to treat those 100 people is $80. Their employers are paying, conservatively, another $160 or 2/3 of the cost, for their employees. As soon as a public option becomes available most employers will drop this benefit (why write a larger check and have an entire benefits department as well as future retiree obligations when you can write a check to the government.) That means that a larger group will be on the government rolls and with the income limitations at least half will pay nothing or a reduced amount. That leaves half of the original group, or about 40 people, paying for most of the health care of 100 people.

    I wonder how many people will be for this plan when they realize that a) they have to pay more and b) they got an effective pay cut from their employer.

  7. G.A.Phillips says:

    Your dimes are already taken to pay for Medicare and Medicaid….should we end those programs? Furthermore, your dimes are also taken to pay for the health care administered in emergency rooms to people who can’t pay…should we end that too?

    No lets keep paying for the lazy useless liberal bastards who don’t work but vote for your masters, lol, it’s the right thing to do…

    Dude all I got are dimes, but I worked for them!

  8. shoey says:

    if you want a clear answer, ask a clear question, if you don’t want a clear answer, don’t ask a clear question.

  9. Warpublican says:

    “Stan, I don’t want you to take a dime from me to pay for someone elses medical services. Health care is a product. If you want it, earn it.”

    And if people have to die in the street – or if the aged have to eat Alpo – who cares? I inherited my wealth or my skin privilage – often on the backs of those I now deny – but who cares? Just ask the Tzarists or the French Royals who cares when the poor are ignored for too long. After all health care is a product! So if you have typhoid – or Swine Flu or measles or… just make sure you keep your “product” off the subways and out of the schools…
    idiot.

  10. No One Important says:

    Why not extend tax breaks dollar for dollar for Drs. to provide services to elderly or poor?

    Let them off set those costs against those revenues from insured? They can write off the full service fees offered to the elderly and the uninsured, dollar for dollar.

    You wouldn’t have ANYONE turned away. Gets the insurance companies out of the loop, doesn’t mandate anyone PURCHASE anything. . .

    Expand the MSAs (medical savings accounts) for those to purchase insurance?

    What about tort reform? But of course, we have a lawyer in the white house, and the trial lawyers own the democrats.

    What about tearing down the barriors to competition across state lines?

    WHY must there be ANYTHING taken from someone to give to someone else in order to make this work?

    There are so many other ideas out there that are MUCH better ideas than what the democrats are proposing. . .but of course, the democrats have a “only government can do it” mentality.

    That’s the problem.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    WHY must there be ANYTHING taken from someone to give to someone else…

    Indeed, why must childless home owners pay property taxes to fund schools that they have no children in? Why must anyone pay taxes for roads they do not use? Why must anyone have their taxes go to support military entanglements they are opposed to? Why are your tax dollars used to support elderly strangers? We could do this all day…