JONATHAN CHAIT MARCH 9, 2010
The Economist has a new poll out showing a majority (53-47) support for President Obama's health care plan. This is very big news. Now, that is the only poll right now showing majority support for Obama's plan. But, as Democracy Corps notes, it's clearly part of an overall trend. Note the trendlines at the Pollster.com average of all poll results:
As I've been arguing for a while, there is clearly room for support to grow further. That has been clear for a while. Strong majorities of the public favor some kind of comprehensive reform, and a large chunk of the opposition to the Democratic plans has come from the left. As Democracy Corps points out:
While the uptick in support is certainly encouraging to supporters of reform, almost all of these surveys still show at least pluralities in opposition to the current reform measure being debated. However, when Ipsos probed further, they showed a surprising result. Of the 47 percent who oppose reform, 37 percent do so because reform does not go far enough (meanwhile, of the 41 percent who say they support the current proposals, 12 percent say they do so because they think the current proposals will stop reform from happening). Combining these results shows a majority - 53 percent - that supports reform or something that goes further. Yet, just 35 percent want to kill reform because it goes too far.
This data is further amplified by other recent surveys showing that a wide majority continues to demand health care reform, and has no interest in Congress or the president giving up on the effort. Back in mid-February, ABC/Washington Post asked whether lawmakers in Washington should keep trying to pass a comprehensive health care reform plan or give up on it. They found that, by a two-to-one margin, Americans want Congress to push forward on passing an overarching reform bill (63 percent to 34 percent).7 Furthermore, Pew Research had similar findings – 61 percent of all Americans either support the current reform proposals or want Congress to keep working toward a solution to achieve reform.
Why is support rising? My guess is that it's related to Obama's emergence as the primary advocate of reform. For months, the message was mired in Congressional sloppiness and deal-making. Obama is far more popular than Congress, and he commands a stronger platform to communicate the virtues of reform. The best way to win the battle for public opinion is to pass the bill. Then you get a signing ceremony, media coverage of how the legislation will work (the details are popular) rather than the grimy lawmaking process, and a chance to unify support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who have felt the bill doesn't go far enough.