When reporters asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) today about whether his intention to vote for the health reform bill might convince other doubting Democrats, he answered: "If I can vote for this bill, there's not many people who shouldn't be able to support it."
Kucinich's decision had no effect on the polls conducted earlier this week, and I do not expect his announcement alone to significantly impact public opinion. However, as PPP's Tom Jensen put it earlier today, Kucinich's "flip...is symbolic of a broader shift" that has occurred in recent weeks as support for health reform legislation has increased among liberals and Democrats. The often vigorous debate among Democratic leaders in evidence for much of the last year has faded, and the Democratic and liberal rank-and-file are slightly more likely to express support. If the bill passes, that trend may add a few percentage points of support in the coming weeks.
First, let's look at the current snapshot of the overall trend in support for health reform as measured by our trend chart (as of this writing - click to see the automatically updated, interactive version).
Now let's explode that trend a bit and consider a second chart showing apples-to-apples comparisons -- trend lines for pollsters that tracked opinion using questions whose wording did not vary over time. Six of the seven pollsters show nominal increases in support for health care reform legislation.** While only a few tracked during January, the results from all pollsters are mostly consistent with a slight decrease in support following the Massachusetts Senate election followed by a rebound during February and early January. Our trend estimate, which is based on all of the health care favor-or-oppose results and not just those plotted below, shows support increasing from a low of 40.6% on January 26 to 43.9% as of this writing.
Now consider the pattern in the opposition percentage. Four organizations (Economist/YouGov, Rasmussen, McClatchy/IPSOS and PPP) show nominal declines in opposition since mid-January, and three (Kaiser Family Foundation, AP-GfK and NBC/Wall Street Journal) show nominal increases. Our trend line shows a decline (from 52.3% to 48.8% since late January), since the organizations showing declines have polled more frequently.
It may be just a coincidence, but the nominal declines have also all occurred for organizations whose measures tend to show more opposition, while the nominal increases have occurred among those that typically report smaller opposition percentages.
Nonetheless, the overall point is that while the level of support for health reform varies widely depending on how pollsters ask the question, the trends are reasonably consistent: Most organizations have tracked modest increases in support for health reform.
Also, on some of the most recently released surveys, the increases in support have been larger for Democrats than Republicans.
So the recent increases in support for reform appear to be coming mostly from Democrats. As skeptical progressive like Dennis Kucinich offer their votes for the health reform bill, that trend could continue.
**The Economist/YouGov time series omits the poll conducted in early march (2/28-3/2) that used a slightly health reform question. See my post from last week for more details.
***Thanks to Hart Research and the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll for sharing results by party.
[Note (10:17 pm): This post originally displayed an inadvertently uploaded older version of the Percent Oppose chart that omitted the new polls released this week. Apologies for the oversight].
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