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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Teixeira: Dems Should Be Cautious About Level of Support They Assume for New Progressive Programs

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Yes, I know, many of these ideas poll well when asked in a standard “here’s an idea, what do you think of it?” format. But life, politics and people are not so simple. There are many reasons to be cautious that a given program is–or will be–very popular simply from the results of few poll questions. My old comrade-in-arms Andy Levison usefully reminds of this in his new essay for the Democratic Strategist site.

“When Democrats begin to make the case for a new progressive program their commentaries will invariably include a sentence that reads as follows:

“And what’s more, as a XYZ recent poll shows, a majority of Americans support this program.”

Usually, one poll (or perhaps two or three at most) are treated as entirely sufficient proof that the proposed reform is genuinely popular.

In reality, however, every Democrat knows that interpreting opinion poll data is not really that simple. The major objectives of Obamacare all polled extremely well in early testing and gave advocates a false sense of confidence about the likely support for the proposed legislation.

The challenge Democrats face is even greater today because progressives are now proposing a wide range of new social policies and programs that will face both normal skepticism and also bitter organized conservative resistance. In this environment relying on standard opinion polls is simply inadequate.”

Words of wisdom. The essay is well worth reading in its entirety. Levison provides some excellent suggestions on how Democrats can be a bit more rigorous in assessing the potential popularity of proposed new programs.

2 comments on “Teixeira: Dems Should Be Cautious About Level of Support They Assume for New Progressive Programs

  1. Candace on

    The caution over polls was about using them as a way to make your case for new progressive programs, not a warning against a belief in their popularity.
    The suggestions mentioned were research ideas on how to find a more complete picture of opinions for and against them that don’t show up in polls in order to better package and present your support to the public and prepare for Republican attacks against them.

    I like the canvassing idea.

  2. Martin Lawford on

    Levison wrote of the Affordable Care Act, “What happened, of course, was that the plan was attacked in ways that were not anticipated or planned for (“death panels,” “socialism,” “rationing,” and so on) and was made to appear deeply unpopular by a conservative grass roots mobilization whose size and energy was not expected.”

    He uses the passive voice, so it isn’t clear who “attacked” the ACA with those mythical death panels, rationing, et cetera. But, the premiums on my high-deductible Health Savings Account plan went up 79% under the ACA. That was no myth, it was an expensive reality. The myth was “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. Period. No one can take it away from you.” That was a damn lie and the man who told me that was the Democratic standard-bearer, President Obama. We cannot afford to be so foolish as to blame our loss of credibility with a wide swath of the electorate on our political opponents. We did it to ourselves.


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