Polling Health Care

A bit tardy, but a similar story appeared over a month ago on fivethirtyeight.com. Newsweek recently reported that respondents voice strong opposition to Obama’s healthcare plan…until they learn about the details.

This actually is similar to a fascinating book called Why Americans Hate Welfare by Martin Gilens. In it, Gilens finds that welfare is despised by many people in this country. To be honest, that’s not too surprising – on standard “feeling thermometer” tests (“On a scale of 1-100, with 1 being cold and 100 being hot, how do you feel about xxxxxxx group/person?”), the only people who who rate below those on welfare are “illegal immigrants.” For reals.

What is surprising is that Gilens found that, when welfare was broken down into its components, it received significant support from people surveyed (e.g., people who despised welfare were the same ones who would argue in the next breath that welfare and unemployment were necessary). It was an interesting disconnect, and one that Gilens (convincingly) explained was a result of racial prejudice. In other words, when respondents felt that the poor were Black, the prevailing attitude was that these were “undeserving poor’ who were unfairly leeching off of the government and taxpayers.

So why the disconnect? It’s a combination of the Democrats not properly conveying the message of healthcare and the Republicans contributing to the disinformation campaign. I’m still baffled as to why Obama just doesn’t hammer this “31 million people without healthcare.” Seriously. Drive that home. Get a bunch of people to do testimonial commercials, sell out and put helpless children up there…do whatever you need to do. At some level, Americans have to have some sort of compassion for something like this. If not, we’re worse off than I thought.

Secondly, we have the aptly-named Republican Noise Machine (though I would have gone with the catchier “Republican Constant Bitchfest,” but whatever) throwing out a steady stream of “blah blah socialism blah blah blah death panels blah OMGEE COMMUNISMS!!!11!!1!” Back in the day (when he was relevant), Rush Limbaugh was significantly better at driving down opponents’ poll numbers than raising those in his own party. This is more of the same.

Still, the fact that these ideas are still embraced is enough to make one hopeful about the entire process.

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