There are headlines blaring across the maw of the 24 hour news beast about the results of a new CNN – Opinion Research poll on the opinions of Americans about their representatives on Congress. (Follow the bloodbath on Memeorandum.) As with most of these polls, you can, if you wish, satisfy yourself with the rough cut talking points. “GOP has erased party popularity gap in Congress!” Well, yes. The overall party support numbers have dropped to a 40-39 split in favor of the Democrats, who enjoyed a 25 point margin in January. This, of course, isn’t all that unusual coming into mid-term elections when one party controls both the White House and the Hill.
But as with most of these polls, the real story is buried in the fine details of the specific questions. (Seen here in .pdf format.) Let’s start with question 3, which led to the big headline.
Do you think the country would be better off if the Republicans controlled Congress, or if the Democrats controlled Congress?
True, the two parties pretty much split that one 40 to 39. But I think the real story here is that 16% said neither and another 3% said that it made no difference which party was in control. Nearly one in five Americans polled seem to either think that neither party would currently be doing a very good job for us or that there’s no difference between the parties. There’s some food for thought.
On the more specific topics, some other information comes clear. Respondents were asked about the health care reform bill currently under debate in the Senate. 61% oppose it and 39% support it. By comparison, when asked about the House bill in early November, the difference was between the margins, with 49% opposing and 46% supporting. The tide has clearly moved as people have learned more and more about these proposals.
Not too surprisingly, they went with another of the skewed phrasings of the question about a “public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies.” When this question has been phrased in terms of what such an “option” could actually do to us, the numbers plummet, but even with this slanted phrasing, 53% support and 46% oppose, as compared to 61% support in October.
Going back to the previous question, the reasons become clear since 79% said that this sort of health care reform, as currently proposed, would increase the deficit and 85% said they believed their taxes would go up. This may have been an unanticipated result of people actually reading the news and the bill and finding out about all of the taxes and fees buried in the bills, (taxes on almost all Class III and above medical devices, fees on people with current, good health plans, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum) along with the actual long term projections which show that it grows the deficit over the long term. Funny how things work.
Still, people like Steve Benen are up in arms, bemoaning the fact that an increasingly informed electorate has been taken in by “the lies” and this particular brand of hope and change may be lost.
This entire debate has run off the rails and turned into one of the uglier debacles seen on the floor of an already dysfunctional legislative body. We could have passed a bill back during the summer which appropriated funds to provide catastrophic medical care coverage for those under the poverty line, made real progress on tort reform, allowed cross-state competition for health insurance and a couple of other key items. Yes, it would have cost us *some* money, but we’d have spent it because we’re the type of country which takes care of our most needy. But, instead, we turned it into a huge circus and mixed in wish list items from across the borders of sanity creating an expensive, destructive boondoggle. We now have an almost certainly disastrous bill approved of by almost nobody which may still somehow pass.
Anyone else feel like running off to take a shower about now? This is all too ugly to watch at this point.