The nature of the opposition

THE NATURE OF THE OPPOSITION…. A new CNN poll shows 46% of Americans support the health care reform proposal pending in Congress, while 49% are against it. The numbers are nearly identical to the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, which found 48% support, 49% opposition.

But there’s an underlying problem with the question — nearly all of these polls fail to tell us why Americans like or dislike the proposal. It’s similar to poll questions asking whether the public approves of President Obama’s handling of the issue, and seeing the number drop below 50%. Is that because Americans want him to compromise more or less? Is he fighting too hard or not hard enough for a public option? Is he going to fast or too slow? The number is inherently ambiguous.

To its credit, the CNN poll went a little further than most on this point.

Americans are split over the health care bill which narrowly passed the House of Representatives earlier this month, according to a new national poll — and the survey suggests the opposition to the legislation isn’t coming only from the right. […]

“Roughly one in three Americans opposes the House bill because it is too liberal, but one in 10 oppose the bill because it is not liberal enough,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “That may indicate that a majority opposes the details in the bill, but also that a majority may approve of the overall approach taken by House Democrats and President Obama.”

As a result, despite the division over the House bill, a majority of Americans would like to see the Senate take up the legislation.

Most of the time, it seems as if the conventional wisdom assumes critics of the reform plan are necessarily on the right. But the CNN poll helps prove otherwise — 46% support the reform bill, and another 10% would like it if it were more liberal.

Republicans tend to look at these evenly-split polls on health care and assume opponents of the bill are with the GOP. That’s clearly not the case.

The same poll, by the way, shows President Obama’s approval rating holding steady at 55%, and Democrats leading Republicans on the generic-ballot test by seven points.