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.