Sometimes you just can’t win. That is how NBC/WSJ Pollsters must feel after they released their August poll regarding the national pulse on the Health Care debate. Progressives and Conservatives both came out crying foul – disagreeing with the phrasing of specific questions. Both sides feel their side of the debate was mis-represented to guide the answer in a certain direction or to make those replies look foolish when not given the correct context.
In the blue corner are unhappy Progressives. Not very suprisingly, the initial reaction from the Left was to first attack the pollsters. They also believe that in the July and August polls, the question was intentionally misleading to get a negative reply. Do you think that’s true? Here are the questions, you be the judge:
In the June poll, NBC/WSJ asked, “In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance?” By phrasing the question this way, 76% of those surveyed were in favor of the public option.
In the July and August poll, NBC/WSJ asked, “”Would you favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies?” When removing the word “choice”, support dropped to 43%.
Chuck Todd and many other pollsters believe, the word “choice” is a trigger word, and they are right. By removing the trigger, the question becomes more direct rather open. The more direct the question, the more accurately you can believe the results. So the latter is not misleading, the former was. The one fault by the NBC pollsters is by trying to compare the 76% in June to the 43% in August. Once you change the phrasing of a question, you invalidate any comparisons you are trying to generate.
Next, in the red corner, we have the angry Conservatives…and more targeted, angry viewers of Fox News. The NBC poll made sure to take the time to take a swipe at their competitor by asking if those surveyed believed possible misconceptions currently being bounced around in the health care debate. Here is what the survey found:
“In our poll, 72% of self-identified FOX News viewers believe the health-care plan will give coverage to illegal immigrants, 79% of them say it will lead to a government takeover, 69% think that it will use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and 75% believe that it will allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing care for the elderly. But it would be incorrect to suggest that this is ONLY coming from conservative viewers who tune in to FOX. In fact, 41% of CNN/MSNBC viewers believe the misinformation about illegal immigrants, 39% believe the government takeover stuff, 40% believe the abortion misperception, and 30% believe the stuff about pulling the plug on grandma.”
There are three false premises in this poll. First of all, they are taking two like ideas and assuming they are relative. The assumption is that if you are a viewer of Fox News than this is your sole avenue of information regarding Health Care and that being a viewer of Fox News makes you disagree with Health Care reform. In reality, most people who watch Fox News are Conservative, therefore their conservative beliefs shape their opinion. The NBC poll skips this step of logic, when in reality what channel you watch is the result of your beliefs not vice versa.
Also, the phrasing of these questions are again opinion based and not direct. If someone asked me if I thought if a public option would lead to a government takeover of Health Care, I would say “Yes” too. Maybe an initial public option wont lead to government takeover, but I am fearful that independent insurers wont be able to compete or that smaller and mid-size companies (like mine, for sure) will drop coverage and go with the government plan, despite Obama saying that you will still be able to keep your current health care. It would only make sense in a struggling economy to go with the cheaper health care option even if its not better. So yes, I am fearful the plan will lead to a government takeover. However, if the question as more properly phrased, such as, “Does the current Congressional Plan attempt to takeover Health Care”, I would probably say, “No”. I don’t think its the intention, but it is a likely result; which is my opinion.
The final false premises is that Fox News viewers are the ones who are uninformed. The belief from the Left on this one is if you watch Fox News you are brainwashed. But if you watch any MSNBC show in primetime you are also getting one-side of the debate. So first you have to believe people only get their news from one news organization. Then you have to believe that everyone but Fox viewers gets a complete understanding of Health Care by watching their channel; which is completely false. NBC/WSJ should never have tried to bring the cable argument into the poll and kept to partisanship to analyze their data.