A center-left majority on health care reform

A CENTER-LEFT MAJORITY ON HEALTH CARE REFORM…. One of the more common talking points from opponents of health care reform lately is the notion that the effort just isn’t popular among Americans. It’s a little ironic for the right to cling to polls to make their case — the public option polls extremely well, and they still hate it — but there’s some data that, at face value, suggests the opponents have a point.

A recent USA Today/Gallup poll, for example, showed 49% of respondents oppose the bill, while 44% support it. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll found 49% opposition, and 48% support. The latest CNN poll sound 49% opposition, and 46% support. The results, obviously, are pretty close to one another.

The first instinct of reform proponents to explain this is plausible but frustrating — opponents outnumber supporters because of an aggressive misinformation campaign, coupled with inept major news outlets which are reluctant to separate fact from fiction.

But there’s the underlying problem with the question — nearly all of these polls fail to tell us why Americans like or dislike the proposal. As we talked about nearly a month ago, some of the critics of the bill are on the left, and their concerns are based on the belief that the legislation is not liberal enough. When one combines supporters of the Democrats’ plan with liberal detractors who want more, we find an electorate with fairly progressive views on the issue.

It’s a point that’s starting to garner more attention. Jon Chait has a new item on this, as does Nate Silver.

Ipsos/McClatchy put out a health care poll two weeks ago. The topline results were nothing special: 34 percent favored “the health care reform proposals presently being discussed”, versus 46 percent opposed, and 20 percent undecided. The negative-12 net score is roughly in line with the average of other polls, although the Ipsos poll shows a higher number of undecideds than most others.

Ipsos, however, did something that no other pollster has done. They asked the people who opposed the bill why they opposed it: because they are opposed to health care reform and thought the bill went too far? Or because they support health care reform but thought the bill didn’t go far enough?

It turns out that a significant minority of about 25 percent of the people who opposed the plan — or about 12 of the overall sample — did so from the left; they thought the plan didn’t go far enough.

Now, Nate’s mistaken about Ipsos/McClatchy being the first to do this specific breakdown — a CNN poll did something similar in mid-November — but the larger point is clearly correct and important.

Too often, the conventional wisdom assumes that critics of the reform plan are necessarily on the right. There’s ample evidence to the contrary — the number of Americans who support the Democrats’ proposal or something even more liberal constitutes a majority.