POLITICS

HUFFPOLLSTER: Gallup Poll Finds Fewer Uninsured Americans

02/12/2014 05:48 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2014
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Gallup finds an decrease in January in the percentage of uninsured Americans. The Time perfect marriage date app draws a charge of 'social science malpractice.' And a hypothetical general election vote question in Alaska poll causes an outbreak of Back to the Future metaphors. And This is HuffPollster for Wednesday, February 12, 2014.

GALLUP FINDS DIP IN U.S. UNINSURED - Jenna Levy: "The percentage of uninsured Americans fell to 16.0% so far in the first quarter of 2014 from 17.1% in the fourth quarter of 2013. These data are based on more than 19,000 interviews with Americans from Jan. 2-Feb. 10, 2014, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. While more than a month remains in the first quarter, these preliminary data show the uninsured rate appears to be on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level measured since 2008. The uninsured rate also dropped to the low-16% range in late 2012 before rising again in 2013, suggesting that there may be inherent variability in the rate or random fluctuation due to sampling error. Still, if the uninsured rate continues to fall over the next several months, it may suggest that the Affordable Care Act's requirement for most Americans to have health insurance, which took effect on Jan. 1, is responsible for the decline." [Gallup]

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A note of cautious optimism - Kaiser Family Foundation Senior VP Larry Levitt noted via Twitter that the Gallup numbers feature "lots of statistical noise, so caution is appropriate." He elaborated to HuffPollster via email: "There is clearly a lot of noise in the Gallup results. For example, they show the uninsured rate rising during 2013, which I think is unlikely to be the case. They also show the biggest recent declines in the uninsured rate among 26-34 year olds, which I think is unlikely too. Plus, they show a recent decline in the share of people covered by an employer, also unlikely. But, the results are suggestive of a decline in the share of Americans uninsured since the Affordable Care went fully into effect, which is what I would expect." [@larry_levitt]

Sarah Kliff agrees - "We don't know quite yet whether these numbers are a result of the Affordable Care Act, but they are the trends you'd expect to see in insurance markets when the individual market and Medicaid expand. The Gallup poll has shown dips in the uninsured rate before, and it will take a few more months to get a sense of whether the lower rate recorded this month is here to stay." [WaPost]

How will we know for certain? - The final word on any decline in the number of uninsured Americans will come from the very high quality surveys conducted by the U.S. Census, particularly the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS interviews a random sample of more than 50,000 Americans per month, conducting initial interviews in person and achieving 90 percent or better response rates. The CPS has traditionally asked its respondents about their health insurance coverage in March of each year, but their question has pertained to whether respondents were covered "last year." As such, the most recent CPS estimates are for 2012. The Census has made changes to the CPS methodology which will allow for monthly estimates of current coverage, but the new data for 2014 is not expected before the fall of this year. Meanwhile, surveys like the Gallup tracking poll will continue to provide early indicators of whether the ACA is reducing the number of uninsured Americans. [see Academy Health and Census.gov]

AN ALASKA POLL 'IGNORES THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM'' - Alex DeMarban: "A new Alaska poll predicts the U.S. Senate race will be a runaway, with incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich landing 45 percent of the vote. But in the fantasy face-off that looks nine months into the future, the current Alaska lieutenant governor -- and Republican hopeful for Begich's seat -- Mead Treadwell is nowhere to be found. The statewide telephone survey, conducted Sunday by Hays Research Group, assumes former state Department of Natural Resources commissioner Dan Sullivan will emerge as the Republican primary winner.. Treadwell was not considered because current Hays polling shows Sullivan with a 'fairly solid lead' in the August primary election, said Adam Hays, the polling company’s owner...Treadwell spokesman Fred Brown, who has been noted for his biting tweets on behalf of the campaign, emailed a statement about the poll saying that it contains 'numerous flaws,' including that it 'ignores the space-time continuum' and shows a 'disregard for the voters.' The subject line of his email read “Only in Doc Brown’s world,” a reference to the wild-haired, googly-eyed professor who built the sporty DeLorean time machine in the 'Back to the Future' movie trilogy." [Alaska Dispatch]

TIME APP PREDICTS YOUR 'PERFECT MARRIAGE DATE' - Chris Wilson: "Given that envy and loneliness are Valentine’s Day’s two chief exports, TIME presents an app that analyzes your Facebook feed to see exactly when your friends are tying the knot—and when it might be time for you to take the plunge...This application measures the median age of your married friends, meaning the person for whom half your married friends are younger and half are older. Because you are probably friends with a lot of people close to your age, this figure will theoretically identify whether you have passed the point where many of your contemporaries start tying the knot. It will work better for some than others." [Time]

'Social science malpractice' - Via Twitter, political scientist Kevin Collins assailed the Time app on Wednesday: "The sample of your friends' ages changes over time, so the median age of married people will change if you did this a year from now...Moreover, making normative claims like the age at one 'should' get married from a mere distribution is total nonsense...I give this interactive graph...an F and recommend the author learn something about sampling and measurement...It's journalistic malpractice by @chriswilsondc to claim 'TIME Can Predict Your Perfect Marriage Date' from married friend's current ages...And not just because it says I'm past my target. ... This kind of thing is incredibly annoying, because some people believe it." [@kwcollins via Storify]

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WEDNESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Americans love the Olympics, with women drawn more to figure skating and men more to hockey. [WaPost/ABC]

-Americans are also growing more confident that the Sochi Olympics will be free from terrorism. [YouGov]

-Voters in New York State would rather not raise taxes to fund pre-K. [Quinnipiac]

-New York Mayor De Blasio says the Quinnipiac pre-K question is like asking, "Do you want a free bowl of candy?"" [@katetaylornyt]

-Jim Oberweis leads the Republican Senate primary in Illinois by a wide margin. [Chicago Tribune]

-Lamar Alexander's campaign releases an internal poll showing him leading Tennessee's GOP Senate primary. [Tenessean]

-A Bolger(R)/Maslin(D) poll for the Atlantic Council finds Americans favoring new relations with Cuba. [Atlantic Council]

-Louisville media critic lambastes attacks on SurveyUSA's Kentucky poll. [WFPL via @SKoczela]

-David Hill (R) urges Republicans to use "honest and truthful polling" to reign in their ideological "outliers" and find a winning message. [The Hill]

-Mark Mellman (D) compares and contrasts the public opinion trajectories of the Tea Party and Occupy movements. [The Hill]

-Anthony Santi (R) says Republican polling firms "are coming back with a vengeance." [WPA Research]

-Emily Schultheis and Alex Byers report on how political television advertising will target individuals. [Politico]

-Eight in ten Millennials listen to Internet radio. [Edison Research]

-"Hey girl, you must be p > .05..." [Quickmeme via @NatalieMJ84]

Ariel Edwards-Levy is off today. She'll be back next week.

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