Who is Rasmussen Reports polling on health care repeal?
June was not a great month for some pollsters out there in our political media economy. Research2000, a firm that had done a lot of polling for DailyKos and a variety of other clients, was dumped by Kos alongside accusations in a lawsuit that its polling data was fraudulent (a summary here from Greg Sargent). The firm’s downfall came after they predicted that Senator Blanche Lincoln would fall in her primary to Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, and not only were they wrong, but it was clear that their polling lacked credibility because of their oversampling of Halter voters.
Maybe July isn’t going to be any better. Today we have Rasmussen Reports, often accused of being a shill for Republican and conservative causes, stating that 60% of voters favor a repeal of President Obama’s health care reform legislation. Watch the two bolded numbers in this poll to reveal the clear flaws in Rasmussen’s polling:
Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans and 65% of voters not affiliated with either major party favor repeal; 56% of Democrats oppose it. Part of the doubt about the likelihood of repeal may come from the fact that Democrats could still control Congress after November. Part of it also may come from skepticism that Republicans would be any different. Recent polling showed that just 42% think there would be a noticeable change if Republicans win control of Congress. Republican voters overwhelmingly believe that their party’s representatives in Washington are out of touch with the party base. Just 21% believe that Republican officeholders have done a good job representing Republican values.
Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Democrats believe the health care law will be good for the nation. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of Republicans believe it will be bad, as do 66% of unaffiliated voters.
Got that? With a little bit of math, we learn that 44% of Democrats either favor or don’t care whether or not health care reform gets repealed – but only 33% of Democrats believe ObamaCare to be bad for America. That means there’s an 11% difference between Democratic voters who think ObamaCare is bad and those who want ObamaCare to go away – a really large gap. One expects polled respondents to answer questions consistently – i.e., I don’t favor ObamaCare, so I don’t object to its repeal. Instead, more than a 10th of those polled like ObamaCare, but favor or don’t mind its repeal. In Rasmussen’s headline-grabbing poll, the missing consistency is a sign that something in the way the poll was done is rotten.
There’s little in Scott Rasmussen’s brief on his poll to explain why when he polls Democratic voters, he gets such confused results. He’s been all over the map in his polling, with anywhere from 52% to 63% of voters favoring repeal. Nate Silver in the link above suggests that Rasmussen routinely asks questions that are slanted to the right, while still holding that his polls aren’t outright biased. But clearly when he’s getting such confused results from Democratic voters, he’s got a problem with his questions.
And I don’t want to give off the impression that I believe ObamaCare is wildly popular. The bill gets just 49% approval in recent Gallup polling, which also finds that 50% of Americans favor repealing all or much of the law (although as a point of contrast, only 27% favor repealing ObamaCare ‘as soon as possible’ in the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll for June, which leaves you wondering how much the ‘all or much’ language from Gallup confuses those polled). Clearly when almost 46% of the electorate voted for John McCain in 2008, one would expect a full-throated base of opposition to any major Obama initiative, with a few political independents coming over. The case for the good in ObamaCare remains to be made by Democrats and the President himself.
But the case also remains to be made that there’s anything to believe in Rasmussen’s claim that a plurality of Americans want ObamaCare to be revealed. There’s nothing close to that kind of runaway political majority in favor of upending the work our Congress laid to rest in March.