The Republicans have drawn a bull's-eye on the health care reform law passed last spring, promising to repeal what was enacted and replace it with what they think are better solutions if they gain the muscle to do so in the midterm elections.
Republican pollster Bill McInturff, in an interview published Thursday
in the Washington Post and on the Kaiser Health News website, cautions that even though there is significant opposition to the new law, the Republican "repeal and replace" strategy is a risky one.
"If you're for repeal and replace, it means you have to say that every single element of health care is something you disagree with, or at least allows your opponent to characterize your position that way," McInturff said. "That seems to me to not make much sense."
McInturff also warned that after this year's long and bitter battle, many Americans may be weary of the debate and the focus on repeal of the health care legislation obscures the fact that the real target in the Republican attack is the cost and role of government.
One obvious way to take some measure of whether the "repeal and replace" strategy has traction with the public is to look at the polls on the subject.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, which describes itself as a "a non-partisan source of facts, information, and analysis for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the public," took a look at eight major national polls
on the issue (see the chart below) and finds the results are "all over the lot." (While this issue is Kaiser's central mission, I've found their work on polling, including their own tracking polls, to be pretty credible.)
Different polls asked the question about support and opposition to health care as well as support and opposition to repeal in different ways, so there's some comparing apples-and-oranges.
But roughly, five of the eight polls looked at by Kaiser fall in the column of pro-repeal sentiment (some by small margins) while three do not.
Add to this that polling in individual states -- and the repeal question is one asked most often by Rasmussen Reports -- shows that voters in 26 states favor repeal by a significant margin, voters in four others support repeal by margins of four points or less and voters in two states oppose repeal. The question wasn't asked in all the states. Rasmussen words its question this way: "A proposal has been made to repeal the health care bill and stop it from going into effect. Do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose a proposal to repeal the health care bill?" (You can see these results in our weekly round-up
of President Obama's poll ratings by state).
How is the question worded?
Unsurprisingly, a major factor in differences among the polls is how the question was structured and asked, which is a key factor when deciding for yourself how conclusive you believe a particular poll is.
One key difference in the way the questions are asked is whether they push for a black-and-white choice, or include options such as giving the law a chance to work and then making changes if it doesn't.
Aside from repeal, measuring support or opposition to health care reform during the entire length of the debate has been tricky, because several polls have consistently shown that respondents who describe themselves as opponents of the measure like many of its components when they are asked about each individually.
Kaiser says, "We know from this and other polling that roughly half -- or just under half -- of the public holds unfavorable views of health reform. The current analysis suggests that many, if not most, of these Americans would not be upset if Congress were able to repeal the new health reform law, at least until they realized that some of the law's more popular provisions would be part of such a repeal."
"It's less clear what proportion of Americans are demanding repeal, as opposed to expressing a more passive opposition to the law," Kaiser said. "If offered an option of saying it would be best to first give the law a chance to work, some in the opposition camp would likely choose that option over immediate repeal."
Republican pollster McInturff, who believes repeal is not the GOP's best message, says of the Republican leaders pushing it: "Those are the people who are thinking about post-November. They're thinking about what they would do legislatively and about translating it to how you would try to get that done, and the rest of the folks running for office are trying to get elected. They have different missions."
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