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About that Gallup Instant Poll

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USA Today and Gallup released results from a one night survey yesterday that are very encouraging for Democrats: 49% of the adults surveyed nation-wide said "it is a good thing" that "the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that restructures the nation's healthcare system" and only 40% say it is a "bad thing." And yes, the improvement as compared to other surveys occurs along a predictable fault line: For the first time, a poll shows Democrats slightly more positive about the legislation (79% say it's a good thing) than Republicans are negative (76% say it's a bad thing). As I've been arguing recently (ditto for Josh Tucker), there is certainly room for Democrats to grow their support for health reform .

Perhaps even more intriguing, Gallup asked respondents to choose one of four terms -- enthusiastic, pleased, disappointed or angry -- to describe their reaction. "Although much of the public debate over healthcare reform has been heated," Gallup tells us, " barely a third of rank-and-file citizens express either enthusiasm (15%) or anger (19%) about the bill's passage." Even among Republicans, only 41% are angry.

But let's all take a deep breath and not over think this. Remember that this is a one-night poll, something inherently skewed to those who happened to be at home Monday night. Those at home were more likely to be following the news on a news day dominated by a huge and unqualified win for the Democrats, a day when for the first time in a long time the process stories that dominate coverage portrayed Obama and the Democratic leadership in a positive light.

Here's a reality check: One-night polls sometimes pick up momentary reactions that quickly fade. On June 9, 2009, Criegh Deeds won a dramatic, come from behind victory in Virginia's Democratic primary for governor. The next night, Rasmussen Reports fielded a one-night survey in Virginia and found a startling result: After having trailed on all previous polls, Deeds led Republican Bob McDonnell by six points (47% to 41%), after having trailed on all previous polls. Five days later, the DailyKos/Research 2000 poll had Deeds down by a point (45% to 44%). Two weeks later, PPP had him down by six. Thirty-six more polls followed over the next four months, and McDonnell led on every one.

Chuck Todd is right: At times like this, we just need to be patient and wait. In a week or so, we should have a good sense of whether this instant reaction is real or the artifact of a one night poll.

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