Not quite as unpopular as we’ve been led to believe

NOT QUITE AS UNPOPULAR AS WE’VE BEEN LED TO BELIEVE…. At this point, it’s practically a foregone conclusion: the public doesn’t much care for health care reform proposals. Thanks to a combination of a massive misinformation campaign, inadequate media coverage, and Americans’ easily-manipulated fears, support started strong before waning badly.

But I continue to marvel at national polls that show Americans really do embrace the reform plan once they know what it is. There have been several recent surveys pointing to this trend, and the latest data from the Kaiser Family Foundation bolsters the point.

The latest Kaiser Tracking Poll finds the public still split on health care reform legislation, with 43 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed. However, the poll also finds that majorities of Americans of all political leanings support several provisions in the health reform proposals in Congress and most attribute delays in passing the legislation to political gamesmanship rather than policy disagreements. […]

“While the intense debate over health care reform has divided the public, it looks like there is bipartisan support on at least some elements of health reform legislation, and more bipartisan support outside the beltway than there is inside,” said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman.

There’s no denying the fact that public perceptions of the existing proposal are negative, and that poses an obvious political problem. But the evidence is just as clear that Americans approve, often strongly, of the various parts of the reform plan — 68% support subsidies for those who can’t afford coverage, 70% support expanding high-risk pools, 71% want to see Congress close the “doughnut hole” in prescription drug coverage, 71% support the creation of an exchange, and 72% back giving tax credits to small businesses.

Of particular interest, also note that 76% of those polled believe it is either important or extremely important that policymakers “reform the way health insurance works.” That’s a fundamental rejection of the status quo, which spans Americans of every ideology. The notion that the public is afraid of meaningful change simply isn’t true.

And for all the GOP talk about killing reform, a 58% majority say they will be either disappointed or angry if Congress decides to stop working on health care reform.

This should, in theory, help stiffen spines a bit among congressional Democrats. The same provisions Dems are fighting for are the same provisions Americans already like. The public has grown confused, thanks to some well-financed professional liars, but when it comes to what Americans want to see happen in a reform bill, Democrats are obviously on the right track.

But the only way for the party to benefit is to move forward, pass reform, and then sell their handiwork. Anything else would be devastating for those counting on reform, and electoral suicide for the governing majority.