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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Polls: Solid Support for Health Reform in Swing Districts

Chris Good’s post “Does Voting For Health Reform Hurt Conservative Dems? Democratic Polling Says No” at the ‘Politics’ blog of The Atlantic leads the ‘must-read’ list for political operatives and activists. Good explains:

39 Democrats voted against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) health care reform package…These lawmakers represent conservative districts–31 of 39 of which backed McCain in 2008–and the Democratic health care reform (whatever that may be, exactly) is opposed, on average, by most Americans–even though some reputable polls have shown strong, some would say overwhelming, support for the public option.
It stands to reason that, in the most conservative districts held by Democrats, voters are at least as cool on reform.
Democratic polling, however, says this isn’t the case, and, while partisan-commissioned polling should always be looked at with a suspect eye, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth looking at.

Good rolls out the data for the swing districts held by Dems, “the polling the left has done–and it’s really all we have to go on” First, from Good’s overview of GQR/DCorps polling of LVs:

A poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlian Rosner for Democratic polling, research, and strategy firm Democracy Corps October 6-11, meanwhile, shows voters in the 20 most vulnerable Democratic seats think Republicans are doing a “better job” on health care, 46-42.
But in the 20 next-most vulnerable seats, the “tier 2” Democratic targets, voters said Democrats are doing a better job than Republicans on health care, by a margin of 47-40–a pretty solid preference for Democrats.

Good also presents conclusions based on data from Anzalone Liszt Research, commissioned by Health Care for America Now! in September, indicating “residents of districts held by Blue Dog Democrats say major health care reforms are necessary by a margin of 57-41” and “When the Democratic plan is described, they support it 50-43.” Good acknowledges that polls commissioned by political parties and other interested groups generally have a bias built into the questions, and then he quotes one of the key questions asked LV respondents:

Let me give you a little more information about the health insurance reform plan in Congress, and get your reaction
Under the plan, insurance companies would be required to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and couldn’t charge more or cancel if you get sick. People could keep their existing insurance, but if they aren’t covered at work they could choose between private insurance plans and a new public health insurance option. Everyone would be required to have health insurance, and families of four making less than eighty-eight thousand dollars would receive a discount. Small businesses would receive tax credits to help them provide coverage, and large companies would be required to either provide health insurance, or pay a tax to help employees buy their own coverage. The plan would be paid for with cost savings in the healthcare system, and higher taxes on households making over three hundred fifty thousand dollars a year.

LVs in Blue Dog districts supported the reforms by a margin of 50-43.
So, given the data indicating favorable support for the public option and other key reforms, why do these House members continue to oppose the Democratic health care reform proposals? It’s not hard to find opinions — everything from their financial contributions by private insurers and pharmaceutical companies to a belief that these majorities, even if real, are maleable and not based on deeply-held beliefs to ignorance and unwarranted fear of ‘tea-bagger’ protests. But the data does indicate that there is strong constituent support for far-reaching health care reform even in Blue Dog districts, and this gives reform advocates something to work with as they seek to firm it up.

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