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.