Does Health Reform Polling Really Matter?

June 30, 2010
1:39 pm

There’s a new survey out today that brings comfort to those who strongly advocated the health reform legislation Congress passed earlier this year.  The Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that more Americans are shifting their sentiments regarding health reform toward support of the measure. 

According to the survey, 48 percent of respondents have a favorable view toward the new law while 41 percent oppose it.  This is a significant shift from the previous month in which the split went 41 percent favorable – 44 percent opposed.

But wait….

At the same time that Kaiser is showing a positive trend in public approval, the Rasmussen polling firm finds that a majority of Americans still want the health reform law repealed.  In fact, Rasmussen has asked the repeal question every week since the legislation’s passage and has found that voters support repeal by an average margin of 19 points.

This is consistent with a Gallup/USA Today Poll earlier this month showing that political independents support repeal of health reform by a 17 point margin, 55 to 38 percent.

So what does this all mean?  Not all that much, actually.  It’s not surprising that some polls would find slightly growing levels of support.  After all, the pieces of health reform that have been implemented thus far – “donut hole” payments to seniors and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance policies, for example – are painless, feel-good measures that won’t generate opposition.  The tougher pieces of reform, such as the imposition of mandates, are yet to come.

Those of us who have commissioned polling know that results can change based on how you phrase questions and the composition of survey respondents. 

What I find amusing are the media pundits who touted public opinion last year when polls showed support for a government health insurance opposition.  Then, when polls turned against Congress’s health reform bill, they said it was irrelevant because people didn’t understand what was in the legislation.  Now, they’re back applauding polls because of the change in results.

I’d prefer to be consistent and say that polling is largely irrelevant at this point until the health reform implementation process is farther along and we can actually see what impact the new law will have on the healthcare system, patients and consumers.

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