March 22nd, 2010 By | News | Posted In: Healthcare Reform, Congress, 2010 Election, Protests

Healthcare Vote: The Day After (Updated)


Now that the U.S. House of Representatives approved a health care reform bill by a 219-212 vote and the Senate appears likely to follow suit, the political wagons are circling in what’s sure to be some nasty congressional races this fall.

Republicans, however, shouldn’t expect to cruise to victory, and here’s why.

GOP leaders consistently point to poll numbers to allege a majority of Americans didn’t want the bill to be passed. Other than highly suspect polls by Fox News, that’s not necessarily the message to take away from the numbers if you dig deeper into the data.

A Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll, for example, finds that 46 percent of respondents either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” the bill, compared to 42 percent who either “strongly oppose” or "somewhat oppose” it. Twelve percent are unsure.

The same poll asked if the nation as a whole would be better off or worse off if President Obama and Congress passed the health care reform bill. Forty-five percent said “better off,” 34 percent said “worse off” and 14 percent said “not much difference.”

(The Kaiser poll was taken March 10-15 and surveyed 1,208 adults. It has a margin of error of 3 percent.)

Hardly an overwhelming mandate against health care reform as the Tea Partiers, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh assert.

That’s not too surprising, because numerous polls last summer and fall found that most Americans supported health care reform of some sort. The numbers began dragging late last year and early this year, when even the most diehard political junkies got tired of the endless debate.

Also, a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll yielded some interesting findings.

Although Obama’s approval ratings are down (41 percent approve to 57 percent disapprove), people like House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-West Chester) don’t mention some other numbers.

When respondents were asked if they generally approve or disapprove of the way that Republicans in Congress are handling the issue of healthcare reform, the results are eye-opening. Just 35 percent approve, and a whopping 57 percent disapprove. For those keeping track, that’s slightly worse than Obama’s numbers.

Further, the numbers in the NBC/WSJ poll show roughly equal disdain for Republican members of Congress as Democrats.

When asked who is to blame for the long impasse over health care, 25 percent blamed Republicans, 18 percent blamed Democrats and 54 percent blamed both sides.

(The poll was conducted March 11 and March 13-14 and surveyed 1,000 adults. Its margin of error is 3.1 percent.)

With the House vote behind us, Gallup is conducting a poll today to gauge how attitudes might have changed, the results of which will be available Tuesday.

But here’s what Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor-in-chief, wrote online today:

“Our most recent Gallup poll found a 3-percentage point tilt against Congress passing the legislation. Two other recent polls (Pew and Fox News/Opinion Dynamics) showed the healthcare legislation opposed by 10-point margins or higher. The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll asked two separate questions about the legislation. One showed a one-point favor over oppose margin. The other showed an eight-point opposition margin. A new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds a four-point favor over oppose margin.

“We note differences across surveys in how the questions were asked. Some survey questions included explicit references to Democrats and to the president. Others do not. Some asked a basic favor or oppose question about the plan. Others asked more explicitly about Congress voting for or against the plan.”

In fact, more detailed polls taken last summer and fall found that some people who said they didn’t support the bill did so because they believed it didn’t go far enough in its reforms. Those respondents generally favored some sort of public option. Recent polls have tended to lump left/progressive objections in with right/conservative opposition.

There doesn’t seem to be a cut-and-dry attitude about the bill among Americans. Views of Congress are almost universally dismal, whether Democrat or Republican. I suspect much of the recent opposition to the bill has more to do with process issues and bickering rather than the substance of the legislation.

As Newport wrote on the Gallup site, “Congressional job approval is at 16 percent now. Congress is controlled by the Democrats. The Pew Research Center recently asked Americans what word came to mind first when respondents heard the word 'Congress.' The most frequent response was 'dysfunctional.' Another frequently mentioned word was 'inept.' Now Congress has actually done something and passed a new plan. This could counter these existing perceptions. Congressional job approval could grow. Democrats could gain some positioning.”

One thing is for sure: Despite all of their noise, Tea Partiers don’t represent mainstream America.

Their protest outside the Capitol on Saturday will serve only to further demonize them in many people’s minds as some protesters called U.S. Rep. Barney Frank a “faggot” and called U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) a “nigger.” I have yet to see, hear or read of a pro-reform protest resorting to those tactics.

Perhaps the biggest loser of the past weekend was Greater Cincinnati’s own Boehner.

His over-the-top speech was long on histrionics and short on substance, but it succeeded in making him appear emotionally unbalanced.

Referring to the bill, Boehner yelled, “Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals struck behind closed doors hidden from the people? Hell no, you can't. Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager's amendment? Hell no, you haven't!"

Wrapping up his comments after nearly an hour, he warned of Election Day consequences. “I beg you, I beg each and everyone of you on both sides of the aisle, do not further strike at the heart of this country and this institution with arrogance,” Boehner said. “For surely you will not strike with impunity.”

By the way, Rush, if you need help packing for Costa Rica, give me a call.

UPDATE: Columnist Glenn Greenwald posted the following information this afternoon at Salon.com, which reinforces the point I was making earlier.

A new CNN poll today finds that Americans oppose the current health care plan by a margin of 59-39%, but a sizable portion of those opposed -- 13% -- oppose it because "it is not liberal enough" (see questions 20 and 21):

Thus, a majority of Americans either support the plan or believe it should be more liberal (52%), while only a minority (43%) oppose the plan on the ground that it is too liberal.

03.22.2010 at 02:33 Reply
Looks like we have a new healthcare bill courtesy of the same government that brought us Katrina, the bailout, and Iraq. Big brother has expanded his tentacles into every crevice of our lives by putting the IRS in charge of spying on Americans to make sure that not only do we have health insurance that is acceptable to us, but acceptibale to the federal government and then imposing a healthy fine if you do not. What country is this? What is next?


03.22.2010 at 02:51 Reply
At this point polls don't mean much because a lot can change between now and the election. Instead of covering the horse race it would be a much greater service to summarize what is actually in the bill and what it will likely mean for Americans. Here's a good place to start. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-hamsher/fact-sheet-the-truth-abou_b_506026.html I agree that the Tea Party Republicans have been disgraceful throughout this. There has been so much lying from both sides that most Americans are confused about what the legislation will mean. I suspect the mandate is unconstitutional and will be challenged and struck down. It should be. The real question in all of this is who pays and who wins? The Tea Party Republicans aren't the only ones that lost, so did advocates for Medicare-for-all which is the real solution to our health care ills. The winners are the health industries, not the American people. Both parties have worked to give us a long and painful charade that hasn't fixed the problems with our health care system. It was largely written by and for the very corporations that have been making a killing by denying Americans affordable and quality access to health care. The media and the politicians have failed us once again.


03.22.2010 at 03:10 Reply
Kevin, you sound like Greg Flannery. You think Socialism is a good thing for America. Well, it isn't. Approximately eighty percent of Americans know that Socialism is the next step toward Communism. And yes, Obamunism is evil and it will kill innocent Americans who will not be able to get health care. I hope you Socialists are happy today.


03.22.2010 at 06:08
You obviously have no idea what socialism is. Most liberals in this country want a single payer system like Medicare-for-all. That isn't socialized medicine because it has private delivery (ie private, doctors, drug companies and hospitals etc.) What the Democrats passed doesn't even have a public option. It is a bad bill, but it isn't socialized medicine. The VA is an example of socialized medicine and so is the system they used in the UK (You know, our biggest allies). Both of those systems are cheaper because they can negotiate prices on drugs etc. and the don't have to pay for massive CEO pay, private jets and the massive private bureaucracy that the Pay or Die system has created.


03.22.2010 at 05:00 Reply
it is very frustrating how fox opinion (not news) has infiltrated so much data that can't be trusted. it is sad to see how far they go to stretch the truth.


03.22.2010 at 08:48 Reply
the nonsense about disrespect shown the two congressmen - it never happened! http://biggovernment.com/jpollak/2010/03/21/eyewitness-to-tea-party-protest-adding-insult-to-insult/ and in case you forgot, a generic "Tea Party" candidate out polls both the Dem's and Republicans