Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On Getting Fooled Again

Witnessing the spectacle of the town halls and the irrational anger towards the reform of health insurance, I was more often left shaking my head in disbelief.

"They" didn't get it, "they" were spouting absurd arguments which bore no relation to reality. There was something familiar in all of this.

I suspected that, for most people, their opposition to health insurance reform was the product of indignation fueled by ignorance. The recent NBC News poll on the Health Insurance Reform initiative confirms that suspicion -- when you strip out the Republican misinformation and misdirection campaign, 53% of respondents favor the House plan currently on the table.

But, you wouldn't know that from reading any of NBC's own coverage of its own poll.

One would think this was the most newsworthy item in the poll -- the opposition to the proposed Health Insurance Reform initiative is based purely on misinformation and when people are presented with the facts, they favor the program. Indeed, when presented with the facts, only 29% are "strongly opposed" to the Democratic plan (roughly the same fringe element who still think the previous occupant was a great President).

First, let's take a look at the poll question in question:

12. Now I am going to tell you more about the health care plan that President Obama supports and please tell me whether you would favor or oppose it.

The plan requires that health insurance companies cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. It also requires all but the smallest employers to provide health coverage for their employees, or pay a percentage of their payroll to help fund coverage for the uninsured. Families and individuals with lower- and middle-incomes would receive tax credits to help them afford insurance coverage. Some of the funding for this plan would come from raising taxes on wealthier Americans.

Do you favor or oppose this plan? (IF "FAVOR/OPPOSE," ASK:) And do you strongly or only somewhat (favor/oppose) this plan?
Favor: 53%
Strongly -- 35%
Somewhat -- 18%
Oppose: 43%
Somewhat -- 14%
Strongly -- 29%

The same poll found a number of misconceptions about what the proposals on the table would and would not do -- and those misconceptions figured in the NBC news coverage of its own poll:
*** Rampant misinformation: One of the reasons why the public appears so wary about Obama’s health-care plans is due to all the misinformation out there. Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants (55%), would lead to a government takeover of the health system (54%), and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions (50%) -- all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress. Additionally, 45% think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly, which also isn’t true.
The same poll confirmed that a combined 60% wanted to see the system overhauled and more than that thought the Republicans were doing a bad job on the issue. Yet, NBC news has failed to highlight the most newsworthy bit in its poll -- we are (again) making decisions as a nation based on Republican-led and inspired misinformation (anyone recall when 70% believed that Saddam was behind 9/11).

Talk about burying the lead.

Sunday, August 16, 2009