Voting For An Unpopular Health Care Plan

Greg Sargent points out that Medicare was also unpopular in many polls before it was passed. Democratic leaders are pointing out this fact to Democrats who are nervous about voting for the current health care plan:

Dem leaders have a message for nervous rank and file Dems: The public was also closely divided on whether to pass Medicare in the 1960s. And now look at how much the public loves it!

In an effort to stiffen Dem spines, senior Dem leadership aides are circulating among House Dems some polling numbers from the 1960s that underscore how controversial Medicare was in the months leading up to its historic passage.

Dem leadership staff is highlighting a series of numbers from 1962 on President John F. Kennedy’s proposal. In July of that year, a Gallup poll found 28% in favor, 24% viewing it unfavorably, and a sizable 33% with no opinion on it — showing an evenly divided public.

A month later, after JFK’s proposal went down, an Opinion Research Corporation poll found 44 percent said it should have been passed, while 37% supported its defeat — also showing an evenly divided public.

Also in that poll, a majority, 54%, said it was a serious problem that “government medical insurance for the aged would be a big step toward socialized medicine.”

After Lyndon Johnson was elected, a Harris poll found only a minority, 46%, supported a Federal plan to extend health care to the aged. Today, of course, Medicare is overwhelmingly popular.

The problem, as Sargent also points out, is that Democrats have to face the voters this year. It won’t  help Democrats up for reelection this year if the health care plan they pass becomes popular several years down the road.

As I’ve now argued in many posts, the Republicans are winning the spin war on this. It is necessary for the Democrats to do far more to explain to voters what is actually in the bill and debunk all the right wing spin being fed by the insurance industry. Polls do show that support for the plan jumps by as much as twenty points as soon as people are informed about what is actually in the bill, but far too few people understand the bill.

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