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The Mob Is Not The Majority

Bill Scher writes today that "a right-wing mob is not a majority." He is absolutely correct. As you've doubtlessly read, heard, or seen by now, conservative groups that oppose health care reform have been organizing demonstrations at congressional town halls around the country. A major goal of these is to drive the media narrative--to make it seem as if the country is up in arms about the reform plans President Obama and his allies are trying to push through Congress.

Fortunately, we also have some polling data on these questions. And it paints a rather different picture. While the public has its concernsa about the plans running through Congress, people remain enthusiastic--extremely enthusiastic--about what Obama and the Democrats are actually trying to do. Ruy Teixeira explained it all on Monday:

Health care reform is still quite popular, contrary to what you may have heard. What’s taking a hit is the multiple reform plans being batted around in Congress, which have confused the public and given conservatives a terrific opportunity to road test every antireform argument they can think of. After all, with so many plans floating around, how can the public be sure that these arguments don’t apply to at least one plan or provision of a plan that might possibly become law? And progressives for their part have had a very difficult time figuring out how to counter conservative arguments since there’s nothing definite and solid for them to defend.

That’s too bad because the public continues to support the key elements of health care reform. Here are some representative recent data from the Pew Research Center: by 79-15, the public supports “Requiring insurance companies to sell health coverage to people, even if they have pre-existing medical conditions”; by 65-29, they support “Requiring that all Americans have health insurance, with the government providing financial help for those who can’t afford it”; by 63-32, they support “Raising taxes on families with incomes of more than $350,000 and individuals earning more than $280,000”; by 61-33, they support “Requiring employers to pay into a government health care fund if they do not provide health insurance to their employees”; and by 52-37, they support “A government health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans.”

That's not to say reform advocates don't have a political problem. Clearly, they need to do a better job of explaining their plans to the public. In early 1994, the Wall Street Journal famously polled voters and found they liked most of the elements of the Clinton health care plan, as long as nobody told them it was the "Clinton plan." And we know how that story ended.

What's more, this sort of polling is far from perfect. People can change their minds or hold views that are, quite frankly, contradictory. A lot, naturally, depends on how questions are worded.

Still, the Pew numbers make it pretty clear that the mobs showing up at congressional meetings are not even remotely representative of the country as a whole. That's something the pundits, not to mention the politicians, should keep in mind.