About That New York Times Health Care Poll - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
About That New York Times Health Care Poll
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Liberals have been touting a New York Times/CBS poll released last weekend suggesting broad support for government health care and higher taxes. Bill O’Reilly has written a column criticizing the poll because 48 percent of respondents said they voted for Obama, compared to just 25 percent who said they voted for McCain — obviously a huge discrepancy. But I noticed this on Monday, contacted a few people, including the New York Times, and decided not to write anything, because there was an explanation that sounded plausible to me — that after an election, there’s a tendency for people to want to say they voted for the winner rather than the loser. If you look at the party identification and ideological breakdown of the respondents in the poll, it’s actually pretty fair: 29 percent Republican, 35 percent Democrat, and 31 percent independent; 19 percent liberal, 41 percent moderate, and 34 percent conservative. 

Here’s the way Marjorie Connelly of the New York Times described it to me in an email:

When we ask respondents to our surveys who they voted for in 2008, we do so in order to look at voters who say they voted for Barack Obama as compared to those who say they voted for John McCain. We’re not looking to recreate the 2008 election, because recall of past vote is notoriously unreliable as a guide to what actually happened.

Traditionally, candidates who have won the election get a boost after the fact. Voting is socially desirable, and people who didn’t vote for whatever reason think they had and say they voted for the winning candidate. In addition, the gap between the candidates often expands and contracts as the
president’s popularity goes up and down.

In general, we use this question to provide crosstabs. For example, we might have looked at people who said they voted for Mr. McCain to see how what they said about health care reform. But, as you can see from our article, we used party identification for analysis instead.

Does this mean I think that most Americans are ready to embrace government health care? Not at all. The Washington Post/ABC poll that came out on Wednesday asked some helpful followups that showed how susceptible voters’ attitudes are to messaging. For instance, when asked whether they would still support the creation of a new government plan if it would drive private insurers out of business, support nosedived to 37 percent. We still have a long debate ahead of us, and if the lackluster ratings for ABC’s Obama health care special are any indication, Americans are not very engaged right now.

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