Health reform is unpopular — or is it?

HEALTH REFORM IS UNPOPULAR — OR IS IT?…. It’s a part of the health care reform debate that’s hardly even questioned anymore. As Republicans never tire of pointing out, the pending reform plan just isn’t very popular.

In response, reform proponents tend to have some persuasive — and accurate — rejoinders. For example, the proposal polls considerably better once Americans are told what’s in it. Strategists also note that the only way to make the plan more popular and overcome the ridiculous caricature painted by the right and the insurance companies is to pass the bill.

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But as the process nears an end, it’s worth noting that the trend lines don’t look that bad. In fact, they seem to be getting better. The black line on this graph shows support for health care reform starting to grow, and the red line, showing opposition, starting to shrink. One poll published this week even showed a majority in favor of the plan — a result we haven’t seen in a very long while.

A Gallup poll released yesterday showed the public nearly tied, with 48% wanting to see their representative vote against reform, and 45% wanting to see their rep vote for it. That’s hardly the result one would expect if Americans had fundamentally rejected the plan, as Republican talking points argue.

The most common concern about opponents of reform? A sense that the bill “will raise the cost of insurance or make it less affordable.” Reality, however, suggests these fears are unfounded, and the poll itself is a reminder that many of those who reject health care reform don’t really understand what it is.

Ideally, the polls wouldn’t much matter. Policymakers would realize that reform is the right thing to do for the public, for the economy, for businesses, for government budgets, and for the nation’s ability to be competitive on the global stage. But we’re nevertheless dealing with politicians in a political system, nearly all of whom want to keep their jobs. The polls, like it or not, matter, and have a real influence.

And while it’s practically assumed that the reform package is widely loathed, the evidence to the contrary is growing. If Dems wanted to, they could make a reasonable case that the tide is turning, and it’s time to start pushing a “comeback” narrative.