Questionable Assumptions From A Questionable Poll

The Los Angeles Times reports today that their polling demonstrates that more Americans agree with the Democrats than the Republicans on how to reform health care. A slender majority want government mandates for people to carry health insurance, and a larger majority supported a mandate for employers to offer it. However, the polling sample has much more to do with the results than the Times acknowledges:

Two of the main proposals advanced by Democrats received majority support in the poll.
Sixty-two percent said they supported requiring large employers to help pay for coverage whereas 31% opposed it. And 51% said they favored a mandate that individuals purchase health insurance, much as drivers are required to carry auto coverage; 39% disagreed.
Tax breaks to make insurance more affordable — a leading Republican idea — more closely divided the public, with 44% backing that approach and 45% opposing it.
In one of the most politically significant results, the poll finds that independents and moderates were generally lining up with Democrats in the healthcare debate.

Just as with the CBS polls, the LAT/Bloomberg poll delivers results that favor Democrats — because the pollsters oversampled them. A sample of 1039 registered voters contained a split of party identity of 46% Democrats, 36% Republicans, and 18% independents. Newsweek’s last survey of party identification puts the split at 34%/30%/36%, which gives a much different perspective on the questions.
Yesterday, I warned about this at Heading Right and predicted that policy questions would give necessarily skewed results. It isn’t hard to imagine that a poll with 46% Democrats would come up with 51% supporting the Democratic Party’s policies. It might be a little more surprising that Republicans could pick up eight points for its own approach to health care with so few independents represented. In fact, the 8-to-5 point pickup might indicate that the Republican policy has more appeal to independents.
The intraparty results certainly have some value, but any questions regarding the overall policy preferences in such a poor sample are simply unreliable. I also note that the PDF of the polling done by the Times does not include the questions for the health care analysis which they report today. The questions are critical to know how the pollsters framed the issue and whether they pushed for a certain response. The lack of this data in their methodology makes the results even more suspect.

18 thoughts on “Questionable Assumptions From A Questionable Poll”

  1. Captain:
    The poll does look questionable, but here’s a sad truth.
    I run/own a small IT business. One of my employees is in her 50s. Two others are young marrieds with kids.
    You could cut my income tax to 0%, and it still wouldn’t pay for even half of my annual health insurance. Add in deductibles and prescription drug costs and frankly, I can more easily pay double, maybe triple the tax if all of that would go away.
    Same for all of my employees on the best plan I am offered. One’s husband works for a hospital and can’t retire cause his drug costs once he’s off the hospital plan could push him to bankruptcy. Side note, my son is entry level at Time Warner and his deductible is 1/2 mine, his co-pays are 1/4. I can’t even get his plan from the same insurer quoted to my company.
    I think Democratic proposed policies should be presumed idiocy till proven otherwise, but I will be looking closely at everybody’s proposal.
    There have to be structural changes to the system. Not that I like universal health care, but tax cuts or savings plans without real reform are a BS answer. Tell the GOP to get real, or they are pushing universal health care simply by not offering a credible alternative.

  2. I am not surprised at the results of this poll. Most people still use the MSM as their primary source for information. The MSM has drummed it into the public’s mind that we have healthcare crisis and our system is broken. Our medical salvation is in our adoption of a Eurosocialist medical system. This is all a big Democratic Party lie. As the following link shows Cancer survival rates in the US significantly exceed those of the EU and the UK.
    http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2007/10/us-cancer-survival-rates-are-lowest-in.html
    Now there is one thing that the doctors, be they Republican or Democrat, Free Marketer or Socialist, Communist or Fascist, all agree on. Early Detection and treatment are the key to increasing cancer survival rates. The survival rate is an index of access and efficiency of the healthcare system. By any measure it is not our system that is broken; it is the socialism system that Hillary and the Democrats want to impose on us that is broken. If your goal is to increase you chances of dying from cancer by all means go with Hillarycare.

  3. In a new RovinsWorld poll taken yesterday, 100% of the people polled believe that the biased MSM alter their polls to achieve the agenda intended.
    It was reported that those interviewed after the poll was taken were shocked to hear these staggering statistics.
    One of the questions in the poll asked “How much longer do you think the credibility of the mainstream media (and the pollsters they have in bed with them) will last in a new information age that exposes their agenda of fabrications and fornication?”
    1) 48 hours
    2) two days
    3) six months
    4) until hell freezes over
    (suprisingly choice’s # 1 and # 2 in the polls were divided evenly)
    /sarc off

  4. jerry:
    Your facts are probably right. For that matter, Canada wouldn’t have organized medical tourism to India if there weren’t year-long waits.
    But saying the system isn’t broken is exactly the sort of reply that will usher in Hillarycare.
    Telling me I’m fine when my wallet is bleeding out ranks almost up there with singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to all those folks in San Diego with ashes where a house used to be.
    It won’t play in Peoria.

  5. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet as far as “polling” is concerned-after all, longtime friend of Hill n’ Bill Vinod Gupta has taken over CNN’s “polling” operation.
    Predictably, all of the Clinton News Net’s results show the Junior Senator from NY leading. I’m shocked!
    Even the leftists at PMSNBC were skeptical of Gupta’s July reading in South Carolina:
    http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/07/20/280196.aspx
    excerpt:
    “If its numbers are true, a new CNN/Opinion Research poll of South Carolina voters is a boon to Clinton and a potentially devastating blow to Obama. In it, Clinton leads Obama, 43%-27%, with Edwards at 17%. Yet among African Americans, Clinton’s lead over Obama jumps to 52%-33%. Can that be right?
    What’s more, 15% of black Democratic primary voters say they WOULD NOT vote for Obama under any circumstance, while just 4% of them say the same thing about Clinton. And on key qualities, Clinton wins by a wide margin. By a 72%-19% clip, black Democratic primary voters say she has the right experience over Obama to be president; by 63%-29%, they think she has the better chance of beating the GOP nominee in ’08; and by 48%-40%, they think she is most likely to bring change to the country.
    What’s startling, in fact, is that Obama gets higher marks among white South Carolina Democrats on some of these particular questions than he does with black Democrats.”

  6. Olddeadmeat:
    I think that the phrase “…wallet bleeding out…” is one of those false and misleading analogies that is spread to undermine the current system. The fact is that our wallets aren’t hemorrhaging dollars because we are much wealthier and can afford the cost of care. Sure you can point out person X is going under financially because of the cost of healthcare but you can also point to person Y who is going under financially because housing costs are so high.
    The Democratic Party is trying to sell the American public that they can have a high level of care at a lower price if the government takes over the system. The truth is that socialists believe in measuring healthcare at the social cost level and not the individual level. The entire system is set up to maintain younger workers who have low medical costs and throw away older workers because the cost of saving them is less then their remaining “value in production.”

  7. There have to be structural changes to the system. Not that I like universal health care, but tax cuts or savings plans without real reform are a BS answer. Tell the GOP to get real, or they are pushing universal health care simply by not offering a credible alternative.
    Posted by olddeadmeat

    The problem IS olddeadmeat, there are those who believe medical care should be a fully government funded entitlement. I DO NOT! Our “government” already has a proven track record of not having the capability to operate their own pathetic business. If you honestly think they could run this system better than a private industry (restructured with market driven incentives), then go ahead and promote another socialist government welfare dependency that will suck this economy dry.
    I would submit it is the Democratic Party that needs to look in the mirror and face the reality that the government is not the answer. Agreed, changes in the system need to be made. But they should be government policies directing the private sector to make these changes. Not inheriting another impending disaster.

  8. Wait a minute. An LA Times/Bloomberg poll was biased left? How can that be? The MoveOnBots across the street every Friday night assure me the LAT is a rightwing propaganda sheet…

  9. jerry:
    To my ear your response comes across as “let them eat cake”
    And since there are a lot more peasants than nobles in this arena, don’t blame me when you are facing the Hillarycare guillotine.
    Without assistance thru my business, none of my employees could pay for health care without giving up food or housing. But I pay them too much to qualify for government assistance. But pretty soon, these 10-20% annual increases in premium are going to drop us all into the uninsured pool, and I arguably am middle class or upper-middle class.
    Here’s why you can be absolutely right and still lose: anybody whose kid is sick will vote for Satan if he could make the kid well. So will all of his relatives.
    Rovin: People will look at everyone’s answers, even the Democrats because the Republicans seem to be in denial(see dialogue with jerry above). OK, what suggested changes? That’s my point. If the GOP doesn’t become part of the solution, then the public will perceive they are part of the problem.
    Lastly, to jerry, Rovin, et al I have raised this point before and never gotten answer to this problem: for a pure free market system of health care to work, doctors will have to let people die at the door of the emergency room because they can’t afford the care.
    That’s why universal health care is so seductive – it lets you avoid that whole problem.
    Maybe the GOP’s unspoken answer really is “let them eat Soylent Green.”
    Whaddya think?

  10. olddeadmeat:
    You are arguing from false premises: “…for a pure free market system of health care to work, doctors will have to let people die at the door of the emergency room because they can’t afford the care…”
    Our current reliance on more or less universal health insurance that covers everything is a recent innovation. Prior to the 1960’s we had a free market system and people weren’t being left at the door of the emergency room to die because they lacked money. The medical profession practiced something called “First Degree Price Discrimination, i.e., they charged the rich more then the poor. Back then the medical profession operated a system that incorporated a rough justice kind of income redistribution.
    The problem with today’s healthcare system is not lack of insurance but too much insurance that covers too many things. A more rational system would limit insurance coverage to catastrophic illness, prescription drugs, preventive testing and vaccinations. Day-to-day healthcare would be on your own nickel. Now that would not be favorable to people like me who like to have their cost of bothering the doctor with some sniffles pegged at $15 but the less economically fortunate would probably still be paying $10 or $15 for the privilege of seeing the doctor for something more important.
    A government takeover of the medical system will not achieve quality care for the public. We are losing the argument not because we are hard hearted and have a “let them eat cake” attitude. We have lost it because there are too many people who have convinced themselves that there is a free lunch.

  11. jerry:
    RE: my false premise –
    Ever hear of the Hippocratic Oath?
    “I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.”
    and
    “I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.”
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_modern.html
    Doctors are culturally conditioned to provide care to everyone and worry about the payment later. That’s the premise I am referring to. Ultimately, it’s a tragedy of the commons – and the resource (pool of pro bono healthcare) is inevitably exhausted by those who cannot pay. Ultimate end: death at the doorstep… except – people couldn’t stomach that alternative and the first steps were made toward the dilemma we face today. Going back to pre-1960s is a non-starter.
    Also note that tuberculosis doesn’t particularly care whether you have health insurance or not. Untreated, it’s communicable. After all, it’s not like we can split between insured and uninsured air.
    So if a sick man can’t pay for treatment, and there is no social safety net to treat him anyway, there is still an impact cost on the system as he infects other people unless and until he is dead.
    Your response to my premise is begs the question:
    Back then the medical profession operated a system that incorporated a rough justice kind of income redistribution. – Gee, doesn’t that sound like socialism? De facto wealth re-distribution? Not a terribly conservative position to advance, and not something that would arise in a pure free market – because the price was not dictated by cost or value of the service, but by the relative ability to pay – much like a progressive tax to pay for health care. Hmmmm…… does that sound more like something a Democrat or a Republican would advocate?
    I’m not advocating universal Canadian care, ’cause we’ve seen the result. But we need a more comprehensive plan to address the unique factors at play in health care, and I haven’t seen anyone propose a conservative alternative that addresses them.

  12. Olddeadmeat:
    You obviously don’t understand the concept. When private providers act to redistribute income/wealth from the rich to the poor it is the free market in operation. Traditionally doctors have always been able to identify the economic well being of their patients by personal knowledge and billing address. They were, and still are, positioned to confiscate all the consumer surplus of their customers. This is the opposite of socialism.
    Like any other commodity the operation of the free market reduces prices. If the US moved away from a universal coverage to a catastrophic system then the price of all medical services would decline and the money saved on buying too much medical insurance could go to pay for day-to-day care.

  13. jerry:
    You are right, it’s not socialism, it’s oligarchy. (OK, maybe aristocracy, if someone wants to argue the point).
    Instead of an elected body deciding to redistribute the wealth from the rich to the poor, a self-selecting, self-governing, unregulated elite will arbitrarily control the redistribution of wealth.
    This is a free market?
    But setting that aside for the moment, there are so many more problems with that concept does anyone think any candidate would propose it as a solution in the real world?
    Like:
    1- drug prices are dictated to drug companies by pretty much the whole rest of the world – so the free market in the U.S. will never be able to reduce costs as you suggest, barring world conquest by us. This thorny problem no one likes to talk about. It’s also why people go to Mexico to buy drugs.
    2- Health care is not just another commodity where demand is uniform. Behavior affects demand, and poor behavior tends to make people poor. Cigarette-sucking, beer-guzzling, crack addicts with tuberculosis don’t progress towards wealth thru their behavior – they progress towards poverty. Ergo: it’s reasonable to expect that the on average poor person will, over their lifetime, require much more care than the average rich person, all other things being equal.
    2a- #2 implies that chronic care will also be a problem – rich people get the cure cause they can pay up front. Poor people will tend to settle for palliatives even when they can afford the cure, because they always have other uses for the money. Doctors will tend to give palliative care to the indigent because that’s cheapest now. Let the doc down the street give him the cure for free.
    3- Catastrophe is a pretty darn relative term. Arthritis for an opera singer is not a catastrophe. Arthritis for a surgeon is. Get the point? What you need to spend for healthcare for a particular problem depends upon the severity of its impact upon your life. Who decides?
    4- How exactly do you propose to transition to such a system? (Of course, this may be a problem with other solutions as well, but I would be interested to see what an actual plan looks like.)
    5- It doesn’t really address the tragedy of the commons problem very well either. There will always be lots of people who can’t afford healthcare at any price. “The poor you will always have with you.”
    6- Extremely rare conditions will go untreated, e.g. Lou Gehrig’s disease, because the cost of cure development will never be recovered in a free market (this is already happening to some extent). A moral conundrum – thru no fault of their own this person dies but that one doesn’t simply because they had the bad luck to inherit the wrong gene or catch the wrong disease. – Do we want doctors making the choice, or should we all get a say?
    Free market says yes, they die, but doesn’t sleep well with the thought. Hillarycare promises a cure in 2328 but sleeps with a slightly less troubled conscience – they are doing something.
    7- It punishes the most successful people. Bill Gates, that hangnail will cost you $3.2 Billion. M C Hammer, it’s just $0.85.
    If this is the best solution the GOP can come up with, Hillarycare might just be inevitable.

  14. olddeadmeat:
    You are blind to the obvious. The system worked pretty well before. The fact that I am alive is testimony to this. When I was born in 1950 I was Rh incompatible with little or no chance of survival. My mother’s doctor went to a conference on treating incompatible infants literally within weeks of my birth. My father wasn’t rich; he was truck driver making about $50 a week. The total cost of my delivery and post natal treatment were less then $500. I am sure Dr. Brill made up for the difference from my wealthier cohort.
    The fact that doctor’s can charge different customers different fees has nothing to do with political oligarchy. It is a matter of economics. Perhaps your lack of understanding of the concept makes it difficult for you to comprehend that price discriminating doctors are good thing not some form of bad oligarchy. The one-price fits all model of medicine leads to the social disaster of Hillarycare.

  15. jerry,
    I enjoy a good argument now and then (gets the blood flowing), and I am glad you survived.
    That said, you were lucky or blessed (I am not even going back to the thread on Christianity today).
    But what you suggest is not a system that will produce consistent predictable results. If it had been, then it would still be in place. Moreover, I don’t think any candidate in either party is proposing it now.
    I have been hoping someone would address my points and blow me out of the water on this with a great solution – and it hasn’t happened yet.
    Right now I pay more than the guy down the street for the same mediocre care because I own a smaller business instead of working for a big corporation. They get a competitive advantage in the market for a reason external to the market. Doesn’t feel like a level playing field.
    From a free market perspective, the GOP is not offering me relief from that. The Dems say, let’s tax everybody the same for really crappy care, (and then if you are rich you can opt out by paying more).
    For me, that levels the playing field, and then I might cough up bucks to jump to the front of the line when I have to.
    Do you see why I am having a hard time staying true to the GOP on this one?

  16. olddeadmeat:
    The reason that the system was replaced was not that it produced random results but the society became wealthier and corporations began to compete for white collar workers in a tight labor market by offering a fringe benefit called “free healthcare.” As more and more white and blue collar workers received this fringe benefit doctors were able to bill the insurance company instead of the patient so we got a one price system. Then Medicare came along to give seniors a single price system. It is no surprise that with a reduced apparent price of medical care the consumer demand more services. Prices rose and so did insurance costs. Because we created a singled priced insurance based system people, and not necessarily below the poverty line either, who did not have insurance, could not participate in the low cost system. Providers had no incentive to price discriminate anymore and they pay high prices. The way you get off the treadmill is not by having the government take over the system, it is by reducing basic insurance coverage to those I mentioned about that will reduce the costs to the consumer. Let those who want more comprehensive coverage pay for it.
    The federal blue cross/blue shield plans are a good example. The basic plan, which offers more then the basic coverage I outlined, is far cheaper to the comprehensive plan that covers more and has almost no deductible.
    During the past few years eyewear has been added to many insurance plans. If you track the price of glasses over the past 30 years or so and make adjustments for inflation prices were fairly stable until the late 90s when this kind of insurance was introduced. Guess what, prices began to rise above the rate of inflation to where a pair glasses that I paid $250 for in 1999 now costs well over $500. I assure you that if you undid this benefit then prices would fall back to a more reasonable level.

  17. jerry:
    You are more eloquent than many. I appreciate that.
    I doubt some of your assertions in the last post, but I cannot dispute them – yet – I will look for grounds to either dispute or validate them.
    So I will defer until I can investigate.
    Captain:
    I appreciate your indulgence, but I did try to stay true to the point at hand – this is an election issue, and a potential decider that really doesn’t favor the GOP at this juncture, though the poll referenced today is flawed, its suggested trend on this point may not be.
    (Shameless but accurate flattery begins)
    Moreover, the quality of discourse on your blog (and of your commenters) is quite above average, so I remain here.
    Many thanks for all your efforts, your patience and your indulgence.
    This is your blog, and I appreciate being permitted to play.

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