What Health Polls Say -- and Don't Say

Washington Matters

What Health Polls Say -- and Don't Say

Don't be swayed by either side's slanted use of polling data.

The conservative blogger's headline on a CNN poll released after the historic House vote seemed to say it all: 59% Oppose Health Care Bill.

Or did it? A closer look showed that 13% opposed the bill because they thought it wasn’t “liberal enough” (the survey’s words). That 13% is hardly likely to desert Democratic candidates and vote Republican in November. And if you add that 13% to the 39% who favored the bill, the tally was 52% on the Democratic end of the political spectrum on health and 43% on the GOP side. Not exactly bad news if you’re a Democrat. Even if you assume the 13% who are unhappy that the bill isn’t more liberal will sit out the elections, it’s still a wash come November. (The numbers don’t add up precisely because 3% opposed the bill but declined to say why.)

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But the poll has other interesting results. Asked who do you trust to “handle major changes in the country’s health care system,” President Obama or congressional Republicans, Obama came out on top, 51% to 39%. And Democrats in Congress outscored Republicans, 45%-39%.

More troubling for Democrats is that 62% think their costs will likely increase under the bill, and 47% think their family will be worse off under the bill. But 42% think other families will be better off. The question for Democrats is whether voters will be willing to sacrifice some of what they have to help the uninsured get on the rolls.


The CNN poll was taken March 19-21, just before the final vote, and of course represents a snapshot in a volatile period. But it belies the notion that the polls show a big majority of Americans have strong, overwhelming opinions against what Congress has done. Of course, as politicians are known to insist, the only poll that matters is on Election Day, and much could change by then. The question is how.