How out of touch are they in the Washington, D.C., "bubble," in which Congress and the media live?
Recently, a national poll was touted in the national news, with a typical headline reading something like, "Public Supports Public Option" for health care legislation. Big news, right? But the actual question asked if poll respondents preferred a plan "that includes some form of government-sponsored health insurance."
Think about it. The poll didn't ask about a government-run program at all. It merely made it sound as if the government would be creating an additional policy option for people who need it.
In the opinion research that dominates my workdays, I spend much time ensuring that my own firm is fair in the questions we ask, the methodology we use and the "weighting" of the various demographic groups so crucial to an honest survey. I also get to examine the work of other pollsters.
Generally speaking, the better surveys I've seen on health care reform tell me that -- as usual -- congressional leaders are so self-absorbed that they haven't a clue on the public's pulse. Americans by and large reject what's being proposed on health care.
Typically, if you see a poll showing that national health care legislation is popular, especially legislation that includes the "public option," that poll almost certainly is flawed.
An errant survey might not have let the respondents know that the "public option" is a program to be regulated and administered by the federal government. Its questions might have been laced with flowery language meant to lure respondents into approving of such reform.
Or even more likely, the poll had been "weighted," or readjusted, to reflect the way America's balance of political partisanship looked six months ago -- with more Democrats and "independents," and fewer Republicans, than is actually now the case. Just that one maladjustment to polling data can make overall anti-reform sentiment look like just the opposite.
Many leaders in the House of Representatives are crowing about what they consider their crowning accomplishment, the health care bill they (barely) passed last week. A cascade of national surveys says they are delusional. In the last week or two, Pew and AP-GFK each conducted surveys on health care. Both are reputable pollsters, even if they tend to overrepresent Democratic voters in their data. These polls showed opposition to the health care reform in Congress to be roughly 46 percent, with about 38 percent in favor.