Why We Cannot Run Public Policy Based Upon Polling Results

While I’m sure others can give many other arguments, here’s two polls which just came out which show that it is impossible to govern based upon polls. A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that most Americans want to reduce the deficit. They do not want to raise taxes or cut spending.

A Time poll shows that Americans support health care reform:

Forty-six percent of respondents said it was “very important” that Congress and the President pass major health reform in the next few months, and an additional 23% said it was “somewhat important.” Only 28% found the immediate effort either not very or not at all important. In a separate question, more Americans said it would be better to pass “major reform” to health care (55%) rather than “minor adjustments” (43%).

On the details of the plan, respondents remained supportive of many of the rough outlines of the health-reform effort as originally described by President Obama. Sixty-three percent said they would support providing health-care coverage for all Americans, even if the government had to subsidize those who could not afford it. Fifty-six percent said they supported a “public health insurance option” to compete with private plans. Fifty-seven percent support raising taxes on those with annual incomes over $280,000 to pay for the plan. Eighty percent said they would support a bill that required insurance companies to offer coverage to anyone who applies, even those with pre-existing medical conditions. By contrast, a slight plurality of 48% opposed requiring all but the smallest businesses to provide health care, and 56% of Americans opposed taxing employer-provided health care to pay for the cost of covering the nation’s uninsured.

On the other hand, they are also falling for many of the scare tactics of the right:

By significant margins, survey respondents said they believe the final health-reform legislation is likely to raise health-care costs in the long run (62%), make everything about health care more complicated (65%) and offer less freedom to choose doctors and coverage (56%).

The first clearly shows a problem with the opinions expressed. The second poll can be interpreted in a couple of different ways. It is a good thing that Americans continue to support health care reform despite hearing the misinformation from the right but it is distressing to see these scare stories being believes by so many.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    Eclectic Radical says:

    A fiction author once said that people would rather believe a frightening lie than a comforting truth because fear is such a basic part of human life that someone who appeals to it always appears to be offering protection against it. So people would rather see the glass as half empty even when it is completely full, and someone who tells them it is half-empty will be seen as a hero while someone who tells them it is full will be seen as ‘trying to swindle them.’
    I think the right wing demagoguery that is wielded on such a massive level, these days, goes to prove that thesis. People consistently continue to believe frightening lies even when those lies are exposed… the best example of that being the trope that Dan Rather was fired for reporting ‘inaccurate political smears’ against George Bush when they were ‘exposed as lies’ by ‘hard-working bloggers.’

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