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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New Polls on Obama, Congress, Health Care Reform Suggest Strategy Options

DemFromCt has a pair of good posts at the Daily Kos trying to sort out the latest public opinion on health care reform. In the first link-rich post, “NBC/WSJ and CBS/NYT Polls: Americans Are Divided On Health Care, Down On The Economy,” he analyzes recent polling data on support for President Obama, approval of the job congress is doing and support for health care refom and suggests a strategy:

The bottom line from both polls: Americans are persuadable but are not sold on what they hear on the news. Specific plans sell, but the opposition is well financed and quite skilled at obstruction. Still, the odds are that reform will pass and a bill will emerge from each chamber, and nothing drives polls like success. Depending on the public to drive the process is fraught with difficulty. This will take White House salesmanship to get the job done.
As for regaining momentum, that’s easy and takes two steps. First, bring it down to ordinary people’s level over the August break about what it means to them (affordable medical care you don’t have to worry about losing), and second, have an actual bill to debate rather than Mike Enzi’s version of how to stop whatever is emerging. Nothing succeeds like success.

In his second post, “TIME Poll: Americans Back Reform but Worry About Details,” DemFromCT reviews numbers showing a strong mandate for comprehensive coverage for “all Americans” and for the public option, and he concludes:

Bottom line here, when looking at all the polls: critics in the GOP have raised doubts about Obama’s plan, but he remains 15-20 points ahead of Congressional GOP in terms of public preference. And though doubts are there, especially about cost, people are anxious, fear losing what they have, and crave stability. They want details, and they want Obama to explain and reassure.

Mark Blumenthal’s Pollster.com post “Health Care: ‘Losing the Message War?‘” cites Kaiser Foundation data indicating strong support for fundamental reforms, despite persistent anxieties about cost and coverage:

…The Kaiser Foundation surveys are typically the most comprehensive on the subject of health care and this latest tracker is no exception. The found a majority of Americans continuing to support the goal of reform and large majorities expressing support for a “variety of methods of expanding health insurance coverage, including Medicaid expansion (74 percent), an individual mandate (68 percent), an employer mandate (64 percent) and a public plan (59 percent).”..

Both DemFromCT and Blumenthal cite the effectiveness of anti-reform messaging in keeping public anxieties high. But Democrats do have a strong tailwind in the public’s recognition that substantial reform is urgently needed, and recognition that Republican obstructionists have failed to deliver even a semblance of meaningful reform. The challenge is now for the President, congress and reform advocates to refine and simplify their messaging and raise the confidence level of the insured that their health security will benefit from the Democratic reforms.

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