Creating an incentive to lie, cont’d

CREATING AN INCENTIVE TO LIE, CONT’D…. There are a few interesting angles to the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, but the key results point to the health care reform effort getting less popular as more people come to believe some of the attacks against the plan.

As the Senate struggles to meet a self-imposed, year-end deadline to complete work on legislation to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds the public generally fearful that a revamped system would bring higher costs while worsening the quality of their care.

A bare majority of Americans still believe government action is needed to control runaway health-care costs and expand coverage to the roughly 46 million people without insurance. But after a year of exhortation by President Obama and Democratic leaders and a high-octane national debate, there is minimal public enthusiasm for the kind of comprehensive changes in health care now under consideration. […]

Obama and the Democrats have had decidedly less success convincing the public that their health proposals will bring positive change. More than half of those polled, 53 percent, see higher costs for themselves if the proposed changes go into effect than if the current system remains intact. About as many (55 percent) say the overall cost of the national health-care system would go up more sharply. Moreover, just 37 percent say the quality of their care would be better under a new system; 50 percent see it as better under the current set-up.

Even among those who presumably stand to benefit most from a major restructuring of the insurance market — the nearly one in 5 adults without coverage — there are doubts about the changes under consideration. Those without insurance are evenly divided on the question of whether their care would be better if the system were overhauled.

Think about that last point for a moment — among those who have no insurance whatsoever, a position that puts them in considerable peril, they’re split on whether reform is a good idea.

It suggests the political campaign against health care reform has been pretty damn effective. There’s ample evidence that reform would lower the deficit, but the public has been convinced otherwise. There’s ample evidence that reform would make medical more affordable, but the public has been convinced otherwise. There’s ample evidence that reform would strengthen Medicare, but the public has been convinced otherwise. There’s ample evidence that reform would get spending under control, but the public has been convinced otherwise.

Once again, the moral of the story is to lie like crazy during policy debates. An apprehensive public is likely to believe false claims, and most news outlets will simply pass blatant lies along with “he said, she said” reporting. The incentive to make up bogus claims is reinforced when most of the country believes them.

Another angle to keep in mind is that if/when reform becomes law, the sales work is going to have to continue — folks just don’t realize what’s in the plan and they get confused by the conflicting information. If/when they learned the details, their support will grow considerably, and it’ll be largely up to the White House to get the message to the public once the debate ends.

While most of the data will be discouraging to Democrats, the party can take at least some comfort in knowing that the public is still not turning to Republicans as a better alternative. President Obama is trusted more than the GOP on handling the economy (48% to 36%), health care (46% to 39%), U.S. policy in Afghanistan (47% to 35%), and energy policy (46% to 36%).

To be sure, those margins are closer than they were at the beginning of the year, but the larger trend is still true — there’s growing skepticism of the Democratic agenda, but Republicans are not yet capitalizing.

Post Script: It’s highly unlikely to make a difference at this point in the process, but I should also note that the two most popular measures in the health care reform debate — the public option and the Medicare buy-in — are the two provisions that apparently have to be scuttled. In this poll, 63% approved of the idea of giving those aged 55 to 64 access to Medicare.