One of the main assumptions of the final weeks of coverage of the congressional debate over healthcare reform was that the public was opposed to the White House plan. But some polling analysis shows that this wasn't the case. Barry Sussman noted this at the Nieman Watchdog on March 5. A McClatchy/Ipsos poll from late February told the usual tale: 41 percent supported the plan, 47 opposed. Sussman wrote:
But the pollsters went a step further, asking those opposed–509 people in all–if they were against the proposals because they "don't go far enough to reform healthcare" or because they go too far. Thirty-seven percent said it was because the proposals don't go far enough.
So a good number of those who answered in the negative were actually saying that they thought the White House was too timid. A subsequent CNN poll asked the same type of follow-up question, and found a similar result–as noted by the blogger Digby (3/24/10), Wolf Blitzer explained it to his CNN colleague Rick Sanchez like this:
Well, you know, when people are asked, we did that poll, CNN Opinion Research Poll, that said, "You like this healthcare bill, or not like it"; we just assumed, a lot of us, that the people who said they didn't like it didn't like it because it was too much interference, or too much taxes or whatever.
But if you take a closer look at people who didn't like it, about 12 percent of those people who said they didn't like it they didn't like it because they didn't think it went far enough. They wanted a single-payer option, they wanted the so-called public option, they didn't like not from the right, they didn't like it because it wasn't left or liberal enough.
That's how you got 50 percent of the American people who said, "we don't like this plan." But only about 40 or 38 percent were the ones who said it was too much government interference.
If reporters had understood and/0r explained this earlier, we could have had a very different debate. Then again, a corporate media that dismissed single-payer and derided the public option as out of the mainstream would be unlikely to do much better.