In the last two days several new public polls have been released showing some softening of support for the health care reform being pushed by President Obama and Democrats in Congress. To be clear, these results are disappointing. Support for "Obama's plan" is, indeed, down, and voters are worried that reform, while good for the nation overall, could have a negative impact on them and their families.
However, a closer reading of these surveys shows that the underlying dynamics of the debate have not changed and still show strong support for reform; the prospects of President Obama and his allies winning long-term support for their efforts are still very good. The public knows the status quo is unsustainable and they want fundamental change now. Voters don't trust the Republicans on the issue at all and trust Obama and the Democrats far more. Most important, when they hear what's likely to be in the final plan, they favor it.
The public knows the status quo is unsustainable and they want fundamental change now.
Voters don't trust the Republicans on the issue at all and trust Obama and the Democrats far more.
Most important, when voters get more information about the likely elements of the final plan, they like it.
The major difficulty for progressives, to this point, has been that it is hard to make the strongest positive case for reform because a unified bill has not emerged from Congress. Instead, all voters are hearing are stories about how much the plan will cost (on top of the stimulus, budget and bailouts), that it will be paid for with high taxes and that Democrats are bickering and divided. Meanwhile, the attacks on reform coming from Republicans and their allies are much simpler and easier for votes to digest, especially when Republicans can train their fire on unpopular specifics that will not likely be in the actual bill.
All of this suggests that when Democrats can finally coalesce around a single plan and Obama can go out and forcefully sell it, support is likely to increase significantly and Obama and supporters of reform will be able to get more traction in their arguments.
Andrew Baumann specializes in U.S. political issues with a particular focus on Greenberg Quinlan Rosner's work with Democracy Corps - a non-profit organization that provides opinion research and strategic advice to progressive organizations.