Rare is the public policy that disappoints no one

It never fails. Every month I get the e-mail from Kaiser on its monthly tracking poll on a day where I’m nowhere near a computer to talk about my favorite orange and blue slides. Yesterday I was visiting my campus* to pick up textbooks, dodging youngsters and their parents taking pictures of the festooned “Welcome to Your Future” type banners.

Anyway, whenever I discuss public policy with disaffected or ‘virgin’ voters I am reminded of the occasional gulf that exists between their perspective (the importance of programs/issues that affect them) and the upper-echleon of political thought (the importance of programs/issues they think affect the former). We may be having a serious conversation on the issues in the upper atmosphere, sort to speak, but that conversation doesn’t necessarily follow the rest of the country that doesn’t have an RSS feed full of wonk. This is why I pay attention to some polls and write about the (relative) importance of opinion coming from ‘everyone else.’

This Kaiser poll was conducted August 7th through the 12th. Paul Ryan was introduced as a VP candidate (officially) on the 11th, so there might be a little bit of the Ryan/Medicare conversation represented here. The headline slide asks respondents to label the importance of various health care issues related to their vote for president:

As you can well imagine the most important categories are Medicare and the cost of health care and health insurance. What’s surprising to me is the third place showing of Medicaid – the public health insurance program for low-income adults, their children, the disabled and some elder Americans. Given that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee advocates a policy that would drastically reduce the size and scope of Medicaid, it might be important for those 63 percent who call the program extremely or very important to keep that in mind.

Following those three are providing health coverage for the uninsured and, mildly amusing at fifth, the Affordable Care Act. Of those polled only 59 percent put the existence of the 2010 health care law as extremely or very important to their vote. This may be difficult for those who closely follow the news, but the fog of recent health care talk from both campaigns hasn’t obscured the fact that the economy still remains a top priority for voters this year. Having said that, it’s worth pointing out the partisan divide in that 59 percent:

Oh, that’s right, there really isn’t one. Both Republicans and Democrats consider the ACA less important than Medicare and the cost of health care. In fact as it relates to their vote for president, more Democrats (64%) than Republicans (54%) consider the law important. This isn’t to deny that these issues still enjoy majorities, but it’s nice to get some perspective. Now the question is, who do you trust to make the ‘right’ decision about the future of the ACA?

Pretty much the current president – a majority among Democrats, Independents, 18-49 and 50-64 year olds. If not for the fact that 80 percent of Republicans are more trustful of Mitt Romney (not surprising, but the 17 percent of Republicans who trust Obama are!) we wouldn’t be talking about ‘repeal and replace.’ Interestingly, even among the Medicare-aged crowd there is more support for the president. That may or may not have something to do with 5.2 million seniors having saved 3.9 billion dollars on drugs since the law was enacted.

Finally, let’s take a look at my favorite slide of this monthly series – “What would you like to see Congress do when it comes to the health care law?” The results:

Nearly half of those polled still want Congress expand the Affordable Care Act or keep the law as it stands. This sentiment has remained true every month with exception of a relative tie in July of this year. Once again, nearly 50 percent of Americans want to keep or expand ‘Obamacare,’ compared to 40 percent who would rather the law be repealed. I cannot stress enough, as I do every month on this slide, to keep this factor of public opinion polling on the ACA in mind when viewing ‘unfavorability’ ratings for the landmark law.

Now standard pundit methodology on imparting folk-minded wisdom requires me to point out what lessons the “elite” can take away from this polling. I think I’ll skip that today and instead provide a healthy perspective for those just starting to think about how policies affect them. As I remarked to a friend recently, there are two sentiments to consider when assessing the health care law from a layman’s perspective; rare is the public policy that disappoints no one, but not as rare as passing health care reform of the magnitude the Affordable Care Act represents. Those that believe the federal government should have a role in our health care system, whatever their ideological leanings, should remember those two things.

*Way off-topic, but just for giggles I also pointed out yesterday the existence of Giant Awkward Cone on my campus.

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