Something I used to do every month is blog about the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. It’s an excellent resource for trending data on the ACA and healthcare reform in general. One of the most consistent findings is that a majority of Americans either like the law or think it doesn’t go far enough, which I imagine confuses some people because of routine statements to the contrary — kind of like this introduction to an article from CNN:
A majority of Americans still oppose the nation’s new health care measure, three years after it became law, according to a new survey.
Maybe, then, it shouldn’t surprise me that one of my most enduring posts (i.e., it still gets clicks) from last year is “A majority of Americans want to keep the Affordable Care Act or expand it.” How am I, and anyone else willing to look at poll results beyond the headlines, able to determine this?
Because of slides like this from Kaiser:
As it turns out, via Kevin Drum, this CNN poll makes the same mistake:
The way CNN words the question in this poll, they almost have no choice but to say that only 54 percent of the public opposes Obamacare. But that’s wildly misleading. If you oppose Obamacare solely because you think it should bemore generous, then you’re not part of the group that’s commonly thought of as the opposition: tea partiers, conservatives, Republicans, and so forth. These are the folks who want to repeal Obamacare completely and leave it a smoking husk, and they’re the ones most of us think of as the “opposition.” If your main problem with Obamacare is that it’s not the NHS, you aren’t part of that group.
That sound you’re hearing is another permanent wrinkle etched onto my Angry Forehead of Polling Despair. The commonplace inability of media outlets to accurately depict polling results on the ACA has allowed politicians and reform opponents to erroneously claim most Americans are on their side. Yet most Americans are not on their side, and according to the latest Kaiser poll most people also disagree with conservative opposition to the expansion of Medicaid. Many segments of the law also remain overwhelmingly popular. These aspects are, understandably if unacceptably, less emphasized than the “most are opposed” headlines.
I don’t know if this some perverse outgrowth of not wanting to appear biased or simply an innate misunderstanding of how poll results should be read. Either way I doubt the 16 percent of Americans who don’t think the ACA is “liberal enough” want to keep getting lumped in with conservative opponents, and the media should start obliging them.