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More Nonsense About the Public Opinion

In the Financial Times today, S. Ward Casscells, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense in George W. Bush’s sterling administration, and pollster John Zogby have an op-ed calling for Congress to start over and draft a bipartisan health care bill. “It is possible a Republican leader could yet emerge and resolve the healthcare impasse,” they intone. And oh yes, it is possible, too, that aliens could land is Oshkosh and take over city hall. 

But let that silliness pass. I am more concerned about the continuing B.S. that pollsters are injecting into the healthcare debate. Pentagon healthcare expert Casscells and pollster Zogby write, “Still, almost all Republicans and most independents oppose Mr. Obama’s plan. The summit did not change their views…” And the sentence continues, but I want to dwell on the two claims that Mr. Pentagon and Mr. Pollster make about public opinion. 

First, do “most” independents oppose Mr. Obama’s plan? Now the term “most” implies well more than a majority. It’s perfectly good grammar to say that “most American homes now have indoor toilets” – with “most” meaning well over 90 percent. So one expects pretty high percentages in this case. (Oh, sorry, I have to interrupt this paragraph to report that I just got a robocall call from “Jim White from Federal Mortgage Services” promising me lower mortgage rates – is the FTC’s “no call” service still working??) Back now to the subject at hand: Do “most” independents oppose the plan. 

The most recent poll, taken Feb. 26-28, is by Ipsos/McClatchy. It’s a large poll, with over a thousand respondents.  And here is what it reports about independents. They favor – yes favor – “the healthcare proposals currently being discussed” by 43 to 41 percent. That would presumably include “Mr. Obama’s plan.” Did the summit change their views? It’s hard to say, because the poll didn’t ask specifically about the summit, but if you look at the prior result in late January before the summit, independents at that time opposed the proposals by 41 to 36 percent. That’s a seven percent swing in a poll with over a thousand respondents.   I like the Financial Times, but maybe they should do some rudimentary fact-checking in their op-eds.