Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The latest health care poll

32% in favor now, vs. 47% opposed. Clearly the politics of the moment are not pretty, but I'm not sure this poll says what we might think it says. Consider this poll from August 5 (i.e. right before the month of health care hell exploded): "A new CNN/Opinion Research survey finds 50% of Americans support President Obama's health reform plans, with 45% opposed." If one assumes that the 45% of people opposing the plan in July still oppose it--a sound assumption, I think--then this means that opposition has not significantly changed over the past five months. Support, obviously, has declined significantly.

Now, it's true that part of this drop has come from the left wing over some of the tactical compromises that the Democrats have made to pass something. But I think that, in a larger sense, this poll is really just measuring fatigue with the issue. People are tired of hearing about this issue. They're tired of the debate. They're a bit angry that it's gone on as long as it has, presumably at the detriment of doing things to materially improve the economy, and considering that most of the provisions don't kick in until 2013 it's not exactly a wrong impression. I can't say I blame them. I've been tired of this particular debate for some months now.

If I'm right, though, I'm pretty sure that the threat of mass backlash against the Democrats for passing this thing isn't likely. My guess is that opinion will rebound after the bill is actually passed. Once the coverage goes from "Who's going to win?" to "What does this bill actually do?", as it will after it passes, it will probably restore much of its former support. And in the years to come, as the Republican predictions prove false, it will be seen as gutsy and determined governance against tough odds. People right now are registering their weariness and apprehension of the process through polls, but I don't think it's really morphed into outright mass anger at this point (outside of the previously existing anger, I suppose). If the oppose number had gone up to, say, 55%, you might be able to make that case. It hasn't. Yet.

I think that in the aftermath of this battle, Democrats need to look at how they played the politics of this thing and learn some lessons from it. Between Max Baucus's freelancing, not working through the August recess, and building up progressive hopes on the public option only to dash them, there are a lot of lessons to be learned here. In the end, however, these reforms will be judged by their effectiveness, not by how popular they were in December 2009.

P.S. Despite this, Obama's popularity is still roughly where it's been for the past few months. Interesting.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.