Free Markets, Free People

Latest Health Care Myth: 80% of Americans Want Public Option! (Updated)

Coming soon from a lefty near you:

A new survey commissioned by the AARP asks respondents to what degree they support or oppose “[s]tarting a new federal health insurance plan that individuals could purchase if they can’t afford private plans offered to them” — a public option, in other words. The results are interesting, though not necessarily surprising to those who have been closely following the debate.

All: 79 percent favor/18 percent oppose
Democrats: 89 percent favor/8 percent oppose
Republicans: 61 percent favor/33 percent oppose
Independents: 80 percent favor/16 percent oppose

Let that sink in for a moment — 61% of Republicans and 80% of Independents support some sort of “federal health insurance plan” according to MyDD’s Jonathan Singer, who adds:

Indeed, a supermajority of even Republicans supports a federal program to provide individuals with a choice for their health insurance coverage, with just a third of the party membership opposing such a plan.

So why, again, are supporters of a public option finding such difficulty in Congress?

Regardless of the veracity of these numbers, you will hear them spouted over and over again by every leftwing outlet available (yes, that includes the MSM). It will become gospel amongst ObamaCare supporters that 80% of Americans support a public option, just as it’s become gospel that there are 47 Million uninsured individuals in this country, or that Tea Party advocates are in the paid employ of the health insurance lobby. Yet, problems abound with this survey.

Where to begin. Firstly, when I say “according to Jonathan Singer” above, I mean that the poll question he quotes is nowhere to be found publicly, so there is no way to verify its accuracy. The AARP has no link to it (and in fact does not even mention the poll), nor does the company, Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (“PSB”), that conducted the survey.

If in fact the question was worded as described by Singer, then the inclusion of the phrase “if they can’t afford private plans offered to them” alters the results dramatically. Although some have suggested that this is the reason we need health care insurance reform so desperately, it completely ignores the fact that those who can’t afford health insurance are generally covered by Medicaid, SCHIP and other federal and state programs. So when respondents are asked whether such people should be covered, how do we know they aren’t thinking about those federal and state programs already in existence and not the public option as proposed by Obama and Congress? In short, we don’t. To be fair, the question allegedly refers to “starting a new” program, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people understood the question to be asking about ObamaCare’s public option.

Indeed, according to PSB, “only 37 percent define ‘public option’ correctly” and “about one-fourth of those polled believe the ‘public option’ is a national health care system, similar to the one in Great Britain.” Of course, how to “correctly” define the public option is not revealed, but suffice it to say that the survey’s respondents did not reveal they had a concise grasp upon what a public option actually means.

Then there is the transparency problem. Although PSB claims (pdf) its survey has a margin of error of “+/- 3.10% at the 95% confidence level and larger for subgroups” it also states that it was done over the internet “on August 12-13, 2009 among 1,000 Americans”. Because the data are not released (at least, not to the public, although Singer apparently has access to a copy), it’s impossible to tell, and difficult to understand, how an internet survey could determine that only Americans responded, that the respondents were actually associated with any political party (e.g. registered voters), or that respondents were even separate people. In addition, how is that an “internet survey” completed over two days received only (and exactly!) 1,000 responses? Again, we don’t know because the actual poll data are hidden from public view. But it looks awfully suspect when such a survey has 61% of Republicans, and 79% overall, responding favorably to a public option, when numerous other polls out there show much lower support.

Finally, there is a potential bias problem. PSB, the company who conducted the survey, is not exactly a bystander in this debate. The “P” in “PSB” is Penn. As in Mark Penn. Remember him?

Mark Penn, the strategist who dashed Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes, is the Wall Street Journal’s “Microtrend”-spotting columnist. He’s also CEO of PR giant Burson-Marsteller. Only a scumbag would abuse the former to drum up business for the latter.

Scumbag spotted!

Mark Penn’s latest (old, and none too insightful) ‘Microtrend’ column is about “glamping”—glamorous camping. It ran last weekend. By Monday, according to an internal email obtained by Gawker, Burson was already trying to recruit companies from the industry featured in the column as clients. Burson Executive Vice President (and former Bill Clinton speechwriter) Josh Gottheimer urged Burson’s senior staff—including Founding Chairman Harold Burson, US President & CEO Patrick Ford, and others, to use Penn’s column as a tool to approach clients in the camping industry about business. Not only that—he recommends that Mark Penn “send a note” to the CEO of these potential clients requesting a meeting.

The WSJ is currently investigating whether the allegation that Penn used his column to generate business created any conflict of interest problems [Ed. – gee, you think?]. Meanwhile, a survey conducted by another one of his companies (PSB) is claiming that support is monstrously high for a public option. And what does PSB do?

Penn, Schoen & Berland (PSB), a member of the WPP Group, is a global research-based consultancy that specializes in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip political, corporate and entertainment clients.

Any guesses as to which clients PSB might be after, and why they only released their survey results to friendly (i.e. partisan lefty) outlets?

It’s my guess that the 80% number is going to tossed around quite a bit in the next coming weeks as Congress gets back to work screwing us passing legislation in September. Just remember that, as of right now, there are many, many reasons to be quite skeptical about that number.

UPDATE: As bains points out in the comments, Jonathan Singer has amended his post, without explanation and (still) without any link to the data, so that “commissioned by the AARP” has been struck out. There’s really nothing wrong with that (it’s not as if the words disappeared altogether), but the omissions are more than a bit strange.

Also, with respect to polling data, Rasmussen released this today:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey show that 43% of voters nationwide favor the plan working its way through Congress while 53% are opposed. Those figures are virtually identical to results from two weeks ago.

As has been true since the debate began, those opposed to the congressional overhaul feel more strongly about the legislation than supporters. Forty-three percent (43%) now Strongly Oppose the legislation while 23% Strongly Favor it. Those figures, too, are similar to results from earlier in August.

While supporters of the reform effort say it is needed to help reduce the cost of health care, 52% of voters believe it will have the opposite effect and lead to higher costs. Just 17% believe the plans now in Congress will reduce costs.

There’s lots more, so go RTWT.

And one last thing. Some of you may notice a certain comment that I let through the filters. It’s not technically spam, but it is one of those pernicious attempts to make some favorite meme go viral that it might as well be spam. You may also notice that I will have gone into the comment and ripped it to shreds. I reserve the right to do so at my leisure, because I have the power and spammenters (as I shall now call these vermin) do not. Neither do they have the common courtesy to even read the post, but instead they simply post their drivel whenever the come across the right keywords. In return, I shall treat these spamments (see what I did there!) as my own personal canvas upon which to express my personal disdain for such ignorant, disrespectful malcontents.

That is all.

MORE: OK, someone went ahead and deleted the comment after I approved it, thus depriving me of my fun. So … carry on.

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14 Responses to Latest Health Care Myth: 80% of Americans Want Public Option! (Updated)

  • Not terribly creative, but this sort of viral marketing can be effective, but this “poll” may have been released too soon. It will make the rounds and get some coverage, but there will probably be time (before any legislation gets considered for a vote) to discredit it, which may wind up having the opposite effect than was intended.

    I guess we’ll see. Has anyone started a pool on who will use it first? Matthews? Olbermann? Maddow?

  • Here’s a question to ask:

    “How many people would want the government to send them a check of exactly $150,000 tax free each year, so that they do not have to work, and they can lay around all day and do nothing?”

    I bet that gets near 100% support.

    Now, ask the question this way:

    “How many people want to stop working and live in a socialist country where the government controls everything and pays for everything?”

    I bet that gets 20% approval, all from the far left.

    It is all in how you ask the question. If you ask it right, you can get degrees of support for virtually anything.

    • Are you high?

      Since when did socialism become synonymous with “not working”?

      If you think that working your way towards anything is the product of capitalism, or that socialism entails joblessness, I’d look at some of the stats (or basic ideology) behind it.

      Especially if your own ideology (blind faith in markets) conjures up the definition of socialism for you (or, at the very least, Glenn Beck).

  • Seems Singers’ political masters have told him to strike that reference to any AARP connection:

    A new survey commissioned by the AARP conducted by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates…

    More interesting is this bit:

    Not only does a public option enjoy strong support, it enjoys broad support — a finding based not only in this new survey but also in SurveyUSA polling released last week.


    SurveyUSA Note the disclaimer:

    SurveyUSA data collection for this project was underwritten by Poll respondents did not hear MoveOn’s name. SurveyUSA is an independent research company and does not endorse any particular cause or ideology. SurveyUSA has no stake in the outcome of any health-care legislation and is a disinterested party in the health-care debate.


  • You couldn’t get 80% of people to say ice cream tastes good.

    The forces of socialism are determined to take the final major step to a dependent society. Controlling healthcare means controlling lives. I don’t care how much bleating I hear about how concerned they are about the uninsured (where they’re also making up numbers). It’s control they want.

    Oh, sure, they have useful idiots who are stupid enough to believe that a government run system will be better somehow, despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary. But I’ve come to the conclusion that those in Congress plus Obama are just being a closeted version of Lyndon Johnson, who was open about the fact that he wanted his Great Society because it was a good thing politically.

    • But I’ve come to the conclusion that those in Congress plus Obama are just being a closeted version of Lyndon Johnson, who was open about the fact that he wanted his Great Society because it was a good thing politically.

      Interestingly enough, I heard a story this morning on NPR about how Medicare would have never been passed if LBJ hadn’t hidden the actual costs of the program (which, I’m sure, were still off by a factor of 5 or so).

    • You couldn’t get 80% of people to say ice cream tastes good.

      Yeah, but this poll was underwritten by the United Vote-Counters of Iran.

  • If Obama’s whiz kids had a brain between them, this poll wouldn’t matter. Public policy isn’t a shell game, as much as the left wing of the Democrat party might wish otherwise.

    When they lose their private health insurance, voters aren’t going to say “D’oh! It’s my own fault because I approved in principle of helping uninsured people in a poll. Now I have no choice to reelect my Democrat in the next election because I didn’t read the fine print! Ooo, Obama, you wascally wabbit!”

    Just ask George Bush how much it mattered that 70% of the country approved of the Iraq War in 2003.

  • Why would you ask, “how do we know they aren’t thinking about those federal and state programs already in existence,” then admit immediately that the supposed poll question asks about a “new program?” Are you paid based on how many words your put in your post?

  • Hello, the government takeover of healthcare didnt:

    1. save ted kennedy.

    Michael cox’s stem cell research didn’t:

    1. save ted kennedy.

    A shot of stem cell might make ted kennedy rise again???

    Don’t Know for sure.

  • I have not come across anyone who believes or supports the public option and I have many friends who are very liberal! I would like to know where these 80% reside. Further more the there is no way that high a percentage of REPUBLICANS would ever support the public option. This is a truly sickening attempt to find a basis of support for a bill that is poorly written and conceived and shows the lengths that the left will go.