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Obama Doesn’t Change Minds

The Washington Post–ABC poll shows that Obama made no statistically measurable difference in the health-care debate. Before the speech, Americans (not voters, as other polls generally measure) opposed ObamaCare by a margin of 50-45 percent. Afterward, by a margin of 48-46 percent. (The margin of error is +/- 3 percent). Fifty-four percent say the more they learn the less they like it. (The poll numbers for ObamaCare are virtually identical in that regard to those for HillaryCare.) Thirty-two percent say their own health care will get worse if changed, while only 16 percent say it will get better. By a small margin, respondents’ say other people’s will get worse, too. A remarkable 86 percent say they already have health-care insurance. But this sample group is fickle: they like the idea of a government-created plan to compete with private plans, by a 55-42 percent margin, but if it doesn’t include a public option, the support for the plan turns from negative (46-48 percent) to positive (50-42 percent). Hmm.

Respondents are evenly divided on whether they think they will in fact get to keep their existing health-care plan as the president has (sort of) promised. Forty-five percent say the plan creates too much government involvement, while 41 percent say it gets it about right. Maybe the most telling number: 40 percent say it would weaken Medicare, while only 22 percent say it would strengthen it. Seventy-one percent think the plan should be changed to attract Republican support, while 25 percent do not. By a small margin, respondents oppose taxing insurance companies, and they really oppose it if the companies will in turn raise prices. A whopping 65 percent think health-care reform is going to increase the deficit (39 percent say it will increase it “a great deal”).

And the kicker: not only doesn’t the poll assess voters’ sentiments (let alone likely voters), the sample has a split of 32 percent Democrats and 21 percent Republicans. (This poll’s partisan advantage for Democrats is higher than the one on Election Day and comes at a time when most polls show Republican identification increasing. Gallup, for example, shows the Democratic advantage narrowing to just 5 points.) So actual voter sentiment may be far worse for Obama than this poll reflects.

What does all this mean? ObamaCare isn’t any more popular than it was before the great address, it’s in about the same spot as HillaryCare, voters think their own care will get worse and Medicare will suffer, and they really, really don’t want a Democratic-only bill. The only good news for the administration is that voters seem to blame Republicans more for the difficulty in passing the bill. If there is any news that might encourage Blue Dogs (whose constituents are furious about deficit-spending and don’t like hyper-partisan politics) to jump on the Obama-Pelosi-Reid reconciliation plan (the “jam-it-home-with-no Republican-support-and-voters-won’t-care” game plan), it’s hard to find. Oh—and voters don’t buy (not remotely) the idea that this health-care reform won’t add a dime to the deficit.


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