July 26, 2009 - August 1, 2009


Why Do They All Poll in the Same Week? Also 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Ron Brownstein reviews Obama's receding tide. More on the latest wave of national polls from Ben Smith, Katie Connolly, Charlie Cook Matthew Cooper, DemFromCT, Ed Kilgore, Eric Kleefeld, David Paul Kuhn, Greg Sargent and Michael Scherer.

Peter Hart conducts a focus group in Towson, MD; first-hand accounts from Dan Balz, Gloria Borger, John Dickerson, Mark Murray, Susan Page and Mark Shields.

Nagourney and Thee-Brenan see "a nation torn by conflicting impulses and confusion," prompting responses from Mickey Kaus, Isaac Chotiner and Steven Benen.

Gallup rounds up health care and finds seniors more skeptical of reform.

Conor Clarke responds to defenses of polling by John Sides, Ed Kilgore and me, Sides answers.

Jon Cohen and Gary Langer consider whether Obama's comments on the Gates arrest hurt his image.

Eric Kleefeld asks about the Ramussen Presidential Approval Index.

Byron York sees parallels between the approval numbers of Bush and Obama.

Larry Elder prefers to look at likely voters.

Ben Smith offers two ways to read the SUSA Virginia poll; Tom Jensen has more.

Jim Geraghty reports someone is polling on replacing Corzine with Booker.

Glen Bolger and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner analyze the poll they conducted for NPR (more from Bolger here).

Whit Ayres responds to Mark Mellman on health care polling.

Ruy Teixiera assesses the improving image of the U.S. (via Democratic Strategist).

Mark Penn wants Democrats to end class warfare.

Bob Moran shares findings from a survey on economic discontent.

Bill Pascoe questions the racial composition of a PPP poll in Louisiana; Ann Selzer responds.

Research Rants assesses a Zogby innovation.

ND: Hoeven 53 Dorgan 36 (POS 7/26-27)

National Republican Senatorial Committee / Public Opinion Strategies (R)
400 likely voters, 4.6% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

North Dakota

Favorable / Unfavorable
John Hoeven (R): 86 / 5
Sen. Byron Dorgan: 69 / 24

2010 Senate
Hoeven 53%, Dorgan 36%

Disturbing poll on beliefs about Obama's birth

Topics: birth certificate , misperception , Muslim , myth , Obama

As Emily notes, a new Daily Kos-sponsored poll from Research 2000 finds that only 77% of Americans, and 42% of Republicans, believe Obama was born in this country -- a result that suggests the Obama birth certificate myth has circulated more widely than previously thought.

Here are the findings in a bit more detail, including partisan and regional breakdowns which show that the false belief that Obama was not born in this country is most commonly held by Republicans and residents of the South:

Research 2000 for Daily Kos. 7/27-30. All adults. MoE 2%

Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not?

Yes      77
No       11
Not sure 12

         Yes   No   Not sure
Dem       93    4    3
Rep       42   28   30
Ind       83    8    9

Northeast 93    4    3
South     47   23   30
Midwest   90    6    4
West      87    7    6

To put these numbers in perspective, we can compare them to the most recent Pew poll on the prevalence of the false belief that Obama is a Muslim (click on the chart for a larger version):


As you can see, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that the number of correct responses is much higher on the citizenship question than the religion question. On the other hand, the proportion of incorrect answers is also much higher on the citizenship question among Republicans, which suggests that the encouragement of the birth certificate myth by conservative pundits and Republican politicians has begun to activate the GOP base on this issue. I'm not sure if Michael Steele is going to be able to make this "unnecessary distraction" go away any time soon.

(Methodological details: The chart above describes responses saying Obama was born in the U.S. or not as "citizen"/"non-citizen," which should be interpreted as shorthand for whether he is believed to be a natural-born citizen. It also groups all responses other than "Christian" and "Muslim" from the Pew poll into a "Don't know" category, including the 6% of respondents who refused to answer the question among the general population and the unknown proportion of Republicans who refused to do so.)

(Cross-posted at www.brendan-nyhan.com)

AK: Favorable Ratings (Hays 7/29-30)

Hays Research Group
7/29-30/09; 400 adults; 4.9% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Hays release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Sarah Palin: 47% Positive, 48% Negative
Gov. Sean Parnell: 67 / 8

US: Obama Nationality (Kos 7/27-30)

Daily Kos (D) / Research 2000
7/27-30/09; 2,400 adults, 2% margin of error
743 Democrats
527 Republicans
601 independents
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(Daily Kos: weekly poll, Obama birth)


Do you believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States of America or not?
77% Yes, 11% No
Dems: 93 / 4
Reps: 42 / 28
inds: 83 / 8

Favorable / Unfavorable
Obama: 62 / 36 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 34 / 56
Democratic Party: 45 / 48
Republican Party: 19 / 72

State of the Country
42% Right Direction, 53% Wrong Track (chart)

US: Sotomayor (Rasmussen 7/28-29)

7/28-29; 1000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: IVR
(Rasmussen release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Sotomayor: 45 / 48

Should Sotomayor be Confirmed?
41% Yes, 37% No

Summing Up The New Health Care Polls (and a New Chart)

Topics: Barack Obama , Health Care Reform

With the remarkable number of national polls fielded in the last week and released in the last 48 hours, we should have as clear a sense of public opinion on the health care debate as ever. Yet based on some of the claims and poll references I've seen today, it seems that many are as confused this aspect of health care reform as they are about the details of the plans themselves. So let's take a closer look.

1) Opinions of "Obama's Plan" - Probably the best general measure of what American's think about Obama's health care plan is a question that asks just that, using as few words as possible. No, Obama has not endorsed a specific plan from among the many bills working their way through the committees of the House and Senate, so some very well informed and highly opinionated Americans might have trouble answering such a question, but it is the best way to get a general sense of Americans' impressions of whatever they believe "Obama's plan" to be.

Fortunately for us, five organizations (that I am aware of) asked such a question on polls released in the last week, and while all the gaps are narrow, all five show more Americans expressing opposition to either "Barack Obama's health care plan," the "proposals being discussed in Congress" or similar words to that effect.


NBC/Wall Street Journal and Rasmussen Reports are the only two that have been tracking these questions over the last few months, and both show increasing opposition since June. Note also that the biggest change on the NBC/WSJ survey is a steady decline in the percentage who "have no opinion either way" (something they prompt for) from 41% in April to 22% last week.

So opinions have been forming and, for some, deepening. Still, the wide variation in uncertain responses, from a high of 22% on the NBC/WSJ survey to a low of 3% on the Rasmussen survey tells us that opinions on this topic are still very soft, with many Americans still forming their opinions.

Starting today, we have created a new chart to track these questions and others like them. Like all of our other charts, this one will update regularly as new data becomes available and includes links to source documents.

2) Reactions to detailed descriptions - Three organizations have provided longer descriptions of the key elements of the sort of plan that Obama and the Democrats support and asked samples of adults for their reactions. I provide the text of the three questions after the jump below, but all three attempt to provide balanced descriptions. The questions from NBC/Wall Street Journal and ABC/Washington Post describe the key elements of the plan, while the NPR question presents arguments pro and con. Although the elements described by these questions differ, their overall results are remarkably similar. All three show a slight majority (ranging from 51% to 56%) in favor, with fewer (ranging from 38% to 43% opposed).


Also note that the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has asked the same question three times since April. The find a level of support that has remained consistent, but gradually increasing opposition (from 33% to 38% since April).

Of course, we need to remember that these questions measure reactions more than existing opinions. They tap into what the legendary political scientist V.O. Key described as latent opinion, attitudes that might be stirred up if -- and it's a big if -- Americans come to see the Obama/Democratic proposals the way these questions describe them.

While the levels of support and opposition are consistent across the three pollsters, we should also assume that we could get different results by tinkering with the verbiage. See, for example, how easily the recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation pushes large numbers of respondents to shift their opinions on elements of health care reform in the face of counter arguments.

Nevertheless, the fact that three sets of pollsters made an honest attempt to describe and frame the proposals or the debate fairly, and obtained very similar results, tells us that more Americans might support the reform proposals if they knew more about them. More important, perhaps, is that the gap between potential support and current skepticism shows, as my colleague Ron Brownstein puts it, "how the White House is losing the message war in health care."

3) Why The Gap? - For all the polling data dropped on us this week, we have surprisingly little to help us assess just what Americans are hearing about the health care debate. We do know, thanks to the Pew Research Center, that health care reform is now the story named most often (31%) as the news story Americans say they are following most closely (with the percentage who say they are following it "very closely" rising to 44% from the mid-twenties in the last two weeks). However, we do not have tracking data on the specifics of what Americans are hearing and learning about health care reform.

We do get a hint from an open-ended questions asked by the Pew Center on their larger political survey last week. They asked those who said they generally oppose (46%) health care reform to explain their opinion (they asked supporters the same question, though I am omitting it here). The two concerns offered most often, as their report notes, are the cost and the impact on the budget and taxes (26%) and the potential for too much government involvement and bureaucracy (18%).


Also, as summarized in my post yesterday, these surveys also that few Americans see a clear benefit to them personally from the health care proposals. The clearest result on this score comes from the CBS/New York Times poll released yesterday: Only 31% of Americans say that "the health care legislation under consideration in Congress" will "benefit you personally;" 59% say it will not.

None of this should be particularly surprising, given the news of the last few months. Americans have heard about new government spending in the trillions to pay for bailouts of banks and automobile companies, to "stimulate" the economy and now to fund health care reform. Only a tiny sliver of Americans are in a position to personally benefit from this spending, and the impact on the overall economy appears (for the moment at least) to be negligible. So skepticism about more spending seems entirely rational. With respect to health care, the results above are consistent with the substance of a debate in Washington centered on the price tag of reform (see Tuesday's post) rather than on the more concrete benefits.

The case against health care reform is getting through; the case in favor is not.

Continue reading "Summing Up The New Health Care Polls (and a New Chart)"

Nyhan: Overstating public incoherence on the deficit

Today's guest pollster contribution comes from Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan. This entry is cross-posted at his blog, Brendan-Nyhan.com.

Matthew Yglesias calls the public "ill-informed and hypocritical" based on a New York Times poll that found "Most Americans continue to want the federal government to focus on reducing the budget deficit rather than spending money to stimulate the national economy... [y]et at the same time, most oppose some proposed solution for decreasing it."

The problem, however, is that the available evidence doesn't support Yglesias's conclusion (which is encouraged by the way the poll is framed in the Times). When you look at the raw poll results (PDF), you'll see that the public prefers reducing the deficit to stimulating the economy 58%-35%, but 53% oppose cuts in public services and 56% oppose higher taxes. Those numbers may seem "ill-informed and hypocritical," but the problem is that we're dealing with aggregate data (this is what is known as an ecological inference problem). We can't draw any strong conclusions about the proportion of individual members of the public who have incoherent preferences about deficit reduction without access to the raw data. Ideally, we would break out the members of the public who advocate deficit reduction over stimulus and see how many of them oppose both higher taxes and reduced services. That's the quantity of interest, but it's unfortunately not available to us at this point.

Update 7/30 12:12 PM: Yglesias has generously updated his post to note that you "can't infer very much about individual preferences from this aggregate data."

CA: Job Approval (PPIC 7/7-21)

Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)
7/7-21/09; 2,501 adults, 2% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews
(PPIC: press release, full report)


Job Approval

Gov. Schwartzennegger: 28 / 59
Pres. Obama: 65 / 27

US: News Interest (Pew 7/24-27)

Pew Research Center
7/24-27/09; 1,018 adults, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Pew: release, toplines)


Please tell me if you happened to follow each news story very closely, fairly closely, not too closely, or not at all closely...

Reports about the condition of the U.S. economy

80% Very / Fairly closely
20% Not too / Not at all closely

Debate in Washington over health care reform

72% Very / Fairly closely
28% Not too / Not at all closely

The arrest of Henry Louis Gates, a black Harvard professor, at his home after a dispute with a police officer

61% Very / Fairly closely
38% Not too / Not at all closely

Most Closely Followed Story

31% Debate over Health Care Reform
19% Condition of U.S. Economy
17% The arrest of Henry Louis Gates

US: National Survey (Pew 7/22-26)

Pew Research Center
7/22-26/09; 1,596 adults, 3% margin of error
505 Democrats, 5% margin of error
373 Republicans, 6% margin of error
532 independents, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Pew: release, toplines)


Obama Approval
54% Approve, 34% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 85 / 8 (chart)
Reps: 19 / 72 (chart)
inds: 48 / 37 (chart)
Economy: 38 / 53 (chart)
Health care: 42 / 43 (chart)
Foreign Policy: 47 / 32 (chart)

State of the Country
28% Satisfied, 66% Dissatisfied (chart)

Party ID
34% Democrat 22% Republican, 37% independent (chart)

From what you've seen and heard so far, do you think the Senate should or should not confirm Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court?

50% Should, 23% Should not

As of right now, do you generally favor or generally oppose the health care proposals being discussed in Congress?

38% Favor, 44% Oppose

US: National Survey (NBC/WSJ 7/24-27)

NBC / Wall Street Journal
7/24-27/09; 1,011 adults, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(WSJ: story, results NBC: story, results)


State of the Country
39% Right direction, 49% Wrong track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
53% Approve, 40% Disapprove (chart)
Economy:49 / 44 (chart)
Foreign Policy: 57 / 33 (chart)
Health Care: 41 / 46 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Obama: 55% Positive, 34% Negative (chart)
Palin: 32 / 43 (chart)
Mitt Romney: 28 / 20
Sotomayor: 31 / 27
Pelosi: 25 / 44

Congressional Job Approval
24% Approve, 63% Disapprove (chart)

Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose Sonia Sotomayor's serving as a justice on the Supreme Court, or do you not know enough about her to say?

44% Support, 30% Oppose

From what you have heard about Barack Obama's health care plan, do you think his plan is a good idea or a bad idea?

36% Good idea, 42% Bad idea

Party ID
30% Democrat, 22% Republican, 41% independent (chart)

US: National Survey (CBS/Times 7/24-28)

CBS News / New York Times
7/24-28/09; 1,050 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(CBS: story, results, health care story, health care results, Times: story, results)


Obama Job Approval
58% Approve, 30% Disapprove (chart)
Dems: 86 / 10
Reps: 24 / 56
inds: 52 / 33
Economy: 51 / 41 (chart)
Foreign Policy: 54 / 24 (chart)
Health Care: 46 / 38 (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Obama: 50 / 23 (chart)

State of the Country
42% Right Direction, 49% Wrong track (chart)
Economy: 32% Better, 22% Worse (chart)

If you had to say, which do you think is a more serious problem right now -- keeping health care costs down for average Americans, OR providing health insurance for Americans who do not have any insurance?
43% Keep costs down, 53% Provide for uninsured

Party ID
34% Democrat, 20% Republican, 39% independent (chart)

US: National Survey (Time 7/27-28)

Time / Abt SRBI
7/27-28/09; 1,002 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(SRBI results)


Obama Job Approval
56% Approve, 38% Disapprove (chart)
Economy: 51 / 44 (chart)
Health Care: 46 / 46 (chart) (ed. note: included in previous release)
Foreign Affairs: 58 / 33 (chart)

State of the Country
51% Right Direction, 44% Wrong Track (chart)

Party ID
34% Democrat, 23% Republican, 32% independent (chart)

US: Health Care (Kaiser 7/7-14)

Kaiser Family Foundation
7/7-14/09; 1,205 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Kaiser: summary, release, toplines)


State of the Country
33% Satisfied, 61% Dissatisfied

Do you think (____) would be better off or worse off if the president and Congress passed health care reform, or don't you think it would make much difference?

You and your family: 39% Better off, 21% Worse off
The country as a whole: 51% Better off, 23% Worse off

Do you favor or oppose...

Creating a government-administered public health insurance option similar to Medicare to compete with private health insurance plans

59% Favor, 36% Oppose

Requiring all Americans to have health insurance, either from their employer or from another source, with financial help for those who can't afford it

68% Favor, 29% Oppose

VA: McDonnell 55 Deeds 40 (SurveyUSA 7/27-28)

7/27-28/09; 526 likely voters, 4.3% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(SurveyUSA release)


2009 Governor
55% McDonnell (R), 40% Deeds (D) (chart)
Dems: 11% McDonnell, 86% Deeds
Reps: 88% McDonnell, 7% Deeds
Inds: 60% McDonnell, 35% Deeds

Party ID
38% Republican, 32% Democrat, 29% independent

US: Health Care (Time 7/27-28)

Time / Abt SRBI
7/27-28/09; 1,002 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Time story, SRBI analysis)


Obama Approval / Disapproval
Health Care: 46 / 46 (chart)

Importance of Passing Health Care Reform

69% Very / Somewhat
28% Not very / Not at all

Would it be better to pretty much stay with the current healthcare system and just
make some minor adjustments, or does the system need major reform?

55% Major reform
43% Minor adjustments

Party ID
34% Democrat, 23% Republican, 32% independent (chart)

Healthcare: 'Losing the Message War?'

Topics: Gallup , Health Care Reform

Is Obama losing the message war on health care? That was the question implied by my post yesterday, and it's the question that Chuck Todd and his colleagues at First Read ask this morning.

First, the anecdotal evidence via First Read:

Perhaps the biggest thing that stood out to us at President Obama's AARP town hall yesterday was that the White House appears to be losing the message war on health care. How do we know? Just listen to the questions the AARP callers had. Several of them asked about "rumors," and they also brought up GOP talking points on "rationing" or the government coming to your house to ask how you want to die (!!!).

Next, some new results from Gallup. They asked a national sample of adults to "what would happen" to medical care, access to care and costs -- for the nation a whole and for them personally -- "if Congress passes a new healthcare reform law." Here are the results in a summary table (full question text in the jump below).


The results confirm the anecdotal impressions of the First Read crew. Nearly twice as many Americans think their own costs would increase (34%) rather than decrease (18%), while more Americans think the reforms would worsen (29%) rather than improve (21%) their own access to medical care. Bigger numbers believe the reforms would expand (47%) rather than reduce (29%) "access to healthcare in the U.S.," but even that result is not exactly positive given that expanding access to health insurance is the one goal that nearly everyone supporting some form of "reform" seems to agree on.

The question I would most like to ask at this point is open-ended: "What, in your own words, have you heard or read about the health care reforms being proposed by President Obama?" I suspect that what little Americans have heard focuses on the trillion-dollar-plus price tags for the legislation and the vague notions of "takeover" and "socialism" being repeated endlessly by Republicans and conservative pundits. But it would be helpful if a media poll asked a question or two to confirm it.

Update: A new poll from Time out this afternoon includes similar results. Even though they see continuing "enthusiasm for the prospect of reform," they find "deep skepticism" about the details:

By significant margins, survey respondents said they believe the final health-reform legislation is likely to raise health-care costs in the long run (62%), make everything about health care more complicated (65%) and offer less freedom to choose doctors and coverage (56%).

Update 2: Thanks to Pollster reader sfcpoll for flagging the July tracker from the Kaiser Family Foundation released last week that we, inexplicably, missed. Apologies to all for that.

As I've noted previously, the Kaiser Foundation surveys are typically the most comprehensive on the subject of health care and this latest tracker is no exception. The found a majority of Americans continuing to support the goal of reform and large majorities expressing support for a "variety of methods of expanding health insurance coverage, including Medicaid expansion (74 percent), an individual mandate (68 percent), an employer mandate (64 percent) and a public plan (59 percent)." See their summary of "key findings" for details.

However, they also updated both their general and specific questions about how Americans perceive the impact of reform for the county and for themselves personally. Here are the highlights from Kaiser:


The survey finds that more Americans are worried that Congress will pass a reform bill that's not good for their family (54 percent) than are worried that health care reform won't happen this year at all (39 percent) . While the data make clear that Republicans are driving the concern (67 percent worry that Congress will pass a plan that will negatively impact their family), there is also a substantial amount of concern among Democrats (45 percent) and political independents (54 percent).

The survey also suggests that support has been softening across a variety of opinions related to reform:

o Reform now: While most Americans (56 percent) say the country's economic problems make health care reform more important than ever, this is down 5 percentage points from last month.

o Will you be better off? The percentage who believe they will be worse off if health care reform passes - 21 percent - is nearly double what it was in February, while the percent who think they will be better off (39 percent) has not changed much since then.

o Will the country be better off? There is a similar pattern on views as to whether the country will be better off if health care reform passes. In this case, the proportion who think the United States will be better off is down 8 percentage points since February while the proportion who think the country will be worse off is up 11 points over the same time period.

While last month Republicans were divided on whether the country would be better or worse off (33 percent vs. 34 percent, respectively), they now tilt decisively toward the negative. Democrats still overwhelmingly think health care reform would benefit the country (65 percent), but their level of optimism is down 11 percentage points from last month.

The Kaiser survey also includes a battery of questions (tracked from February) similar to the ones from Gallup discussed above. I created the table below to show the July results, which are generally similar to what Gallup found, although the Kaiser respondents were not as pessimistic about the impact on the costs of healthcare, both generally and to them personally.


Tracked from February, these measures show the same pattern that the Kaiser analysts note about their more general questions. The "better" numbers are about the same, while the "worse" numbers are consistently higher.

Continue reading "Healthcare: 'Losing the Message War?'"

US: National Survey (Economist 7/26-28)

Economist / YouGov-Polimetrix
7/26-28/09; 1,000 adults, 4.9% margin of error
332 Democrats, 253 Republicans, 295 independents
Mode: Internet

(Economist: post, toplines, crosstabs)


Obama Job Approval
50% Approve, 43% Disapprove
Dems: 85 / 11
Reps: 15 / 82
Inds: 49 / 47
Economy: 45 / 44
Health Care: 45 / 46

Congressional Job Approval
19% Approve, 54% Disapprove

2010 House Ballot
40% Republican, 48% Democrat

State of the Country
37% Right Direction, 50% Wrong Track

24% Getting Better, 36% Getting Worse

'Diddy is a Wiz at Stats!'

Topics: Jimmy Fallon , Sean "Diddy" Combs , The Roots

As Emily put it, I posted the "outliers" links too soon. Here from Jimmy Fallon is a video clip no poll junkie will want to miss. Don't ask, just click (or risk missing Jimmy, The Roots and special guest Sean "Diddy" Combs "slow jam" Obama's poll numbers):

Never thought you'd hear "Rasmussen tends to be an outlier" as a song lyric, did you?

US: Health Care (Harris 7/9-13)

7/9-13/09; 2,276 adults
Mode: Internet

(Harris release)


How much do you support or oppose the proposal now being discussed to set up a public, or government-sponsored, health plan somewhat like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans and sell health insurance to employers and individuals who choose it?"

52% Support, 30% Oppose

US: National Survey (GWU 7/19-23)

Tarrance Group (R)/Lake research (D)
7/19-23/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live Telephone Interviews

(Battleground poll: results, analysis)


State of the Country
38% Right Direction, 51% Wrong Track (chart)

Obama Job Approval
53% Approve, 42% Disapprove (chart)

Favorable / Unfavorable
Obama: 61 / 36 (chart)
Sarah Palin: 42 / 47 (chart)
Nancy Pelosi: 32 / 51
Harry Reid: 15 / 31
Joe Biden: 49 / 38

Congressional Job Approval
34% Approve, 57% Disapprove (chart)

2010 House Ballot
43% Democrat, 40% Republican (chart)

Would you prefer a health care reform plan that: Raises some taxes in order to provide health insurance to everyone, OR a plan in which some people do not have health insurance but keeps taxes at current levels?

46% Raise taxes/covers everyone, 44% No new taxes/Some not covered

Party ID
34% Democrat, 28% Republican, 36% independent (chart)

US: National Survey (NPR 7/22-26)

National Public Radio
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D) / Public Opinion Strategies (R)
7/22-26; 850 likely voters, 3.4% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(NPR: story, toplines, powerpoint)


State of the Country
38% Right Direction, 54% Wrong Track (chart)
1% Excellent, 8% Good, 42% Not So Good, 49% Poor (chart)

Obama Job Approval
53% Approve, 42% Disapprove (chart)

Congressional Job Approval
33% Approve, 61% Disapprove (chart)

2010 House Ballot
43% Republican, 42% Democrat (chart)

As you may have heard, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are preparing a plan to change the health care system. From what you have heard about this plan, do you favor or oppose Obama and the Democrats' health care proposal?

42% Favor, 47% Oppose

Party ID
38% Democrat, 32% Republican, 29% independent (chart)

US: Health Care (Gallup 7/24-25)

7/24-25/09; 2,017 adults, 4% margin of error
Results based on partial samples of:
485 adults, 6% margin of error
559 adults, 5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Gallup story)


Would a new healthcare reform law improve, not change or worsen medical care?

In the U.S.: 44% Improve, 34% Worsen
For you: 26% Improve, 34% Worsen

Would a new healthcare reform law expand, not change or reduce access to healthcare?

In the U.S.: 47% Expand, 29% Reduce
For you: 21% Expand, 29% Reduce

Would a new healthcare reform law increase, not change or reduce healthcare costs?

In the U.S.: 45% Increase, 30% Reduce
For you: 34% Increase, 18% Reduce

Blue M&M 'Outliers'

Topics: Outliers Feature

Gallup checks the cross-tabs in a down week for Obama.

Gary Langer finds approval for Joe Biden, but less intensity than for Obama; Jennifer Agiesta sees a relationship to views of the stimulus plan.

Nate Silver flunks the Democrats' health care sales pitch.

Ezra Klein notes that Canadians are happier with their health care than Americans.

Dana Milbank traces the decline in Obama's ratings to idealism colliding with Washington's reality.

Jonathan Singer is shocked at a finding Fox News overlooked in its own poll.

David Hill loses enthusiasm for the red state/blue state fad.

Mark Mellman finds opposition to restrictions on abortion in health plans.

Kristen Soltis shares her thesis, The Vanishing Young Republicans.

Andrew Gellman plots the two-party vote for Congress for the last 60 years.

IBM buys SPSS for $1.2 billion.

Will Robinson discovers a little known benefit of eating M&M's while watching focus groups (come to think of it, l often looked like this after conducting groups):


Health Reform: 'Once More, With Feeling!'

Topics: Health Care Reform

I'm borrowing the headline for this entry -- "once more, with feeling" -- from an editorial in this week's New Republic partly because of some observations it makes quoted below and partly because new survey results out in the last 24 hours revisit themes I have covered recently: First, that the satisfaction that Americans with health insurance often express to pollsters about their coverage masks deep anxiety about its costs and stability (here and here) and second, that the emphasis in Washington on "bending the cost curve" does little to convince Americans that health care reform offers them tangible benefits (here and here).

A month ago, an ABC News analysis reported the following results from a June ABC/Washington Post poll: "About eight in 10 [adults], are concerned that reform may reduce their quality, coverage and choice of care, and increase their costs, government bureaucracy and the federal deficit, with anywhere from 51 to 62 percent 'very' worried about each of these." At the time, I passed along the conclusions of the "Democracy Corps" pollster Stan Greenberg and his colleagues that Americans are "nervous about change, but they want it," because of anxiety about "having traded off wages or gotten locked into a job because of health care or about the fate of a child with a chronic ailment who may not be able to get insurance in the future." I pointed to some data from a Kaiser Family Foundation and the Pew Research Center showing reports of putting off needed care because of costs or widespread reports of "problems" with paying the costs of health insurance or a major illness.

Yesterday, John Russonello of the left-leaning firm Belden, Russonello and Stewart released findings from a national survey it conducted last week that clearly demonstrate the anxiety that Greenberg talked about (the survey had no sponsor, although as Ben Smith notes, Russonello's client list includes health reform advocates Families USA and AARP):

  • 72% of adults are worried that if someone in their family becomes seriously ill their health insurance might not cover enough of their medical bills. Nearly half the country -- 47 % -- is very worried about inadequate health coverage.
  • 65% worry that if they lose or change jobs they might lose their health insurance and not be able to afford new health insurance. Again, close to one out of every two Americans -- 46% -- is very worried about losing health care.
  • 60% say they worry that if someone in their family becomes seriously ill their health insurance might drop their coverage. 41% worry very much.
  • 56% worry that if they lose or change jobs they might not be able to get new health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Nearly four in ten -38% -- worry about this very much.

For those following the debate, the benefits you perceive in health care reform (or the lack thereof) may depend on your politics. So, as reported in this morning's Washington Post, while Republican pollster Ed Goeas may see only a "focus on the uninsured" packaged to "convince people that's not the case," I find the new data from Russonello tends to support a contrary argument from Democrat Greenberg in the same article: "There's a real power in telling people, 'We're going to do something to make sure you don't lose your insurance if you lose your job.' "

But are Americans hearing that potentially powerful argument? New data from Gallup implies that they are not. Gallup finds that while 48% of Americans say that they personally have a "good understanding of the issues involved in the national debate over healthcare reform," only 27% say they same for members of Congress.

Before leaping to conclusions about those results, it is worth starting with Frank Newport's caveat:

Americans have quite negative attitudes about Congress in general, making it less than surprising to find that the significant majority of the public believes that Congress does not have a good grasp on the issues involved in the current debate over healthcare reform. It is possible that if Gallup were to ask this "good understanding" question about any type of pending congressional legislation, we would find the same level of distrust that representatives fully understand the issues involved.

That said, I think these results tend to confirm that the Washington debate over health care reform remains distant from the rich, personal experiences that Americans have with the health care system and health insurance. On this score, that TNR editorial gets it exactly right:

[S]omething strange, and not entirely welcome, has happened in the last few weeks: The focus on policy minutiae has crowded out part of the big picture. Health care has become almost entirely a technical discussion, rather than a personal one. It's all about deficit neutrality and bending the curve, instead of making sure every American can get affordable medical care.

Or as Brian Williams put it more succinctly as he introduced a report on yesterday's NBC NIghtly News, "there's the health care debate going on in Washington, almost impossible to follow, and then there's real life."

In real life, the debate about cost containment and the costs of the plan are not likely to translate into a belief that it will reduce every-day, out-of-pocket costs of health care and health insurance any time soon. To sell this plan, the Obama administration needs to move the focus of its message from what TNR calls the "technical gobbledygook" about cost containment to "a clean, simple message" about the benefits of reform.

NJ: Christie 50 Corzine 36 (PPP 7/24-27)

Public Policy Polling (D)
7/24-27/09; 552 registered voters, 4.2% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(PPP: 2009 Gov), Approval

New Jersey

Favorable / Unfavorable
Chris Christie (R): 42 / 32
Gov. Jon Corzine (D): 33 / 56 (chart)

Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 53 / 39
Sen. Menendez (D): 29 / 40
Sen. Lautenberg (D): 40 / 41

2009 Governor
Christie 50%, Corzine 36% (chart)

US: Health Care (Zogby 7/15-20)

7/15-20/09; 4,811 adults, 1.4% margin of error
Mode: Internet

(Zogby release)


Do you agree or disagree with a universal healthcare plan that would require everyone in the U.S. to have health insurance with federal help for those who cannot pay the premiums?

49% Agree, 48% Disagree

Do you agree or disagree with a universal healthcare plan where the government would provide health insurance for everyone in the U.S. under a single-payer plan, similar to everyone having Medicare?

44% Agree, 52% Disagree

US: Health Care (Rasmussen 7/26-27)

7/26-27/09; 1,000 likely voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(Rasmussen release)


Generally speaking, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats?

47% Favor, 49% Oppose

If the health care reform plan passes, will the quality of health care get better, worse, or stay about the same?

23% Better, 50% Worse

If the health care reform plan passes, will the cost of health care go up, go down, or stay about the same?

53% Up, 23% Down

DC: School Vouchers (Friedman Fdn. 7/6-13)

Braun Research Inc. / Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice*
7/6-13/09; 1,001 registered voters, 3.1% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Friedman Foundation release)

Washington, DC

Mayor Fenty Job Approval
62% Approve, 32% Disapprove

Friedman Foundation: "More than seven out of ten registered voters in the District of Columbia support the federally funded DC Opportunity Scholarship program, which provides tuition scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools, according to the results of a public opinion survey released today by nine local and national educational and policy organizations. Seventy-four percent say they either "strongly favor" or "somewhat favor" the scholarship program and a majority (56 percent) support expanding the program to provide scholarships to all children who have applied"

*(Editor's note: the Friedman Foundation advocates on behalf of school voucher programs)

US: 2012 Primary (Fox 7/21-22)

Fox News / Opinion Dynamics
7/21-22/09; 303 registered Republicans, 6% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Fox News release)


2012 President: Republican Primary

Romney 22%
Huckabee 21%
Palin 17%
Giuliani 13%
Gingrich 9%
Jindal 3%
Jeb Bush 1%
Pawlenty 1%

NYC: Mayor (Quinnipiac 7/21-27)

7/21-27; 1,290 registered voters, 2.7% margin of error
793 Democrats, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Quinnipiac release)

New York City

Favorable / Unfavorable
Tony Avella (D): 16 / 6
William Thompson (D): 38 / 9
Michael Bloomberg (R, i): 59 / 34

Job Approval / Disapproval
Mayor Bloomberg: 63 / 29

2009 Mayor: Democratic Primary
Thompson 44%, Avella 11%

2009 Mayor: General Election
Bloomberg 47%, Thompson 37%
Bloomberg 51%, Avella 28%

US: Health Care (BRS 7/20-23)

Belden Russonello & Stewart (D)
7/-20-23/09; 800 adults, 3.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(BRS post, memo, toplines)


Do you favor or oppose President Obama's efforts to create comprehensive changes in the health care system?

62% Support, 33% Oppose

How much do you worry that if you lost or changed your job you might lose your health insurance and not be able to afford new health insurance?

65% Very Much / Somewhat, 33% Not Very Much / Not at All

Another Defense of Polling

Topics: National Journal column

My National Journal column for the week is a brief affirmative case for polling, answering the challenge from Conor Clarke following his earlier call to "get rid of polling."

In the column, I highlight the two-part response to Clarke's argument from GWU professor John Sides, a series that I want to recommend again as a must read. Also, my National Journal colleagues originally chose "Why Polling Matters" as a headline without realizing that Gallup's Frank Newport used something very similar -- Polling Matters: Why Leaders Must Listen to the Wisdom of the People -- for the title of his 2004 book.  Polling Matters also makes a strong and thorough case for public opinion polling.   Apologies to Newport for the oversight. 

Nyhan: The End of the Obama Honeymoon

Today's guest pollster contribution comes from Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan. This entry is cross-posted at his blog, Brendan-Nyhan.com.

Just to briefly elaborate on the point I made last week, here are comparable plots of President Obama's overall job approval and approval of his handling of health care:

As you can see, what's happening on health care is a leading indicator of the end of Obama's honeymoon period. As we return to our normal, highly polarized political climate, most Republicans and Republican-leaning independents will disapprove of a Democratic president's performance in office and his handling of high-salience issues, especially in a bad economy. As a result, Obama's numbers will inevitably decline across the board -- this reality shouldn't be surprising to anyone who works in or reports on politics.

Going forward, we should focus on more important questions. First, how much will Obama's approval numbers decline? Given the state of the economy, it wouldn't be surprising to see him in the low- to mid-40s by the end of the year. Second, what is the distribution of opinion on Obama's handling of health care? Aggregate public opinion on the issue is less relevant than how it's playing in the states of key senators whose votes will determine the fate of the legislation in Congress.

US: Federal Agencies (Gallup 7/10-12)

7/10-12/09; 1,018 adults, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Gallup story)


How would you rate the job being done by [agency]?

CDC: 61% Excellent/Good, 24% Fair/Poor
NASA: 58 / 26
FBI: 58 / 27
CIA: 47 / 29
Department of Homeland Security: 46 / 31
EPA: 42 / 33
IRS: 40 / 36
FDA: 38 / 37
Federal Reserve Board: 30 / 35

AZ: Job Approval (Rasmussen 7/21)

7/21/09; 500 likely voters, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: IVR

(Rasmussen release)


Job Approval / Disapproval
Pres. Obama: 46 / 53
Gov. Brewer: 48 / 48

MA: 2010 Gov (UNH 7/15-21)

Boston Globe / University of New Hampshire
7/15-21/09; 545 adults, 4.5% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Boston Globe story)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Gov. Patrick: 36 / 52

2010 Governor
Charles Baker (R) 41%, Deval Patrick (D) 35%
Christy Mihos (R) 41%, Patrick 40%
Patrick 30%, Tom Cahill (i) 30%, Baker 20%
Patrick 31%, Cahill 31%, Mihos 18%

US: Sotomayor (Fox 7/21-22)

Fox News / Opinion Dynamics
7/21-22/09; 900 registered voters, 3% margin of error
Mode: Live telephone interviews

(Fox News release)


Favorable / Unfavorable
Sonia Sotomayor: 41 / 24

If you were voting on Sotomayor's nomination, would you vote to confirm
her or not?

53% Yes, 29% No