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Repealing Health Care Reform: Figuring Out What the Polls Are Saying

4 years ago
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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.
House Minority Leader John Boehner has the repeal vow posted on his website, the Republican "Pledge to America" says the party is running on "a plan to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care" and a New York Times story last month said that if repeal could not be achieved, GOP lawmakers were "determined to chip away at the law if they could not dismantle it."
Health Care reformRepublican 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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October 25 2010 at 3:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

From his own words "America has the best healthcare system in the world and with your help we are going to change it". From her own words " we just have to pass it so we will know what is in it". If you are a Democrat or a Republican you should have enough common since to see through this.

October 25 2010 at 2:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am a business owner. I live in NY. Not manhattan but near the catskills. My take home is at the bottom of the middle class. As the current law is written, I will not be able to afford health insurance for my employees. So the choice now becomes ... let 30% of my force go so i can afford the new coverages imposed by the government, drop it completely or cloe my doors. This is not a fix, this is an ill proposed rushed statute that needs to be severed and re-written pronto. what other discussion is there?

October 25 2010 at 10:21 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Please, Republicans law makers and citizens, start thinking about common people and not the wealthy. Please think about how your health policy changes will make the insurance companies even wealthier. God forbid you had no insurance and one of your dearest relatives became expensively ill.

October 20 2010 at 10:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Give me liberty or give me death??We have had death for many years because we cant afford healthcare..I want single payer health care!!!This will give me liberty to live....The laise farre republicans have healthcare only for themselves!!!

October 20 2010 at 8:02 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

The bottom line is that Health Care is too important to ram through on party lines, and if only 40% or more of the country doesn't want something that has such such a pervasive influence, it should be repealed. This is not the United Socialist States of America - we have seen what's in the law, and it galls many of us. The Feds do not have authority here - they should concentrate on providing for the common defense and maintaining a stable currency. The Commerce Clause was designed to prevent States from taxing each others goods, which interfered with interstate commerce. It does not authorize participation in commerce - just regulation. But let's be frank. Oba-Mao's goal is to drive out private health care so we can have his socialist single payer system. This should be an impeachable offense.

October 20 2010 at 8:01 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I see two problems with these polls. One is likely in the way they are reported here. The last four listed all say they are asked of people who disapprove of the health insurance law. But the responses all include a significant number of people who approve of the law. Just how are we supposed to read these numbers? There is one apparent way, but without knowing for sure, it's hard to be clear what the numbers say. The other is more serious and is common in polls on the law: They don't ask why people are against it. Polls that do ask that question - such as one done for AP in late August - find that significant numbers of opponents dislike the law because it doesn't go far enough in regulating the insurance companies and/or changing the health care system. The assumption in most polls on the law - and articles such as this one - is that if you oppose the law it's because you like things at least pretty much the way they are now. That is demonstrably untrue.

October 19 2010 at 4:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The way I see it the Republican plan is to return our country to the low economic status that we had when the country was first founded, and not to return it to the economic powerhouse that we were in the 40s, 50s and 60s... And, they've been doing a great job... We are the only developed industrialized nation that doesn't have some form of universal health care... We are not the best in terms of longevity or infant mortality... We should be doing more to keep our people healthy, and not looking to maximize profits from doing so...

October 19 2010 at 1:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Republican plan is better : Don't get sick___and if you do get sick or have an accident and no coverage___just die. Now that's some good plan.

October 18 2010 at 7:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The Republican TEA antiAmercian Party believes that insurance company bureaucrats, not physicians, should make your medical decisons. The health care law puts physicians in charge of your medical decisions. The Republican TEA Anti American Party wants to wedge insuarce comapny bureaucrats back between you and your physician, to overrule your physician's advice and to deny you the health care you need because it it too expensive and cuts into the insurance company's profit. Repeal of the health care law means that your health care will again be rationed by insurance company bureaucrats, and your physicians opinion counts for nothing, it's all about insuarance company profit, even if you die as a result. The only problem with the health care law is that it does not go far enough. It should have instituted a single payer system so that ALL Americans coulod get the health acre they need, young or old, rich or poor, not having 38% of Amercians denied the health care they need, as occurs now.

October 18 2010 at 2:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply


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