When we, as consumers of news, look at poll results on public policies or laws, we don’t actually want to know if they are popular or unpopular. That information, by itself, is useless. If we’re primarily concerned with policy, we want to know what elements of a law are working or are not working. If we’re primarily concerned with politics, we want to know what parts of a law people like and what parts they don’t like. The Republicans forget this when they treat ‘ObamaCare’ like it is a dirty word.

If you look at the graphic in the latest CNN poll, it doesn’t look good. Yes, the trend is favorable, but most people still don’t like the law. But, if you look just a tiny bit deeper into the poll results, you’ll discover something interesting. We have reached the point that a majority of Americans either like the law or want something more comprehensive, like single-payer. “Not all of the opposition to the health care law comes from the right,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Thirty-nine percent say they oppose the law because it’s too liberal, but 12% say they oppose it because it’s not liberal enough.”

From a political point of view, this means that repeal is a minority position. But it also means that opposing ObamaCare from the right is a minority position. While attacking ‘ObamaCare’ in the abstract might still work, the success of that strategy depends on people not understanding the basis of the criticism.

This is a problem for the Republicans because the trend lines are good, more and more people are getting coverage, and they’ve put all their eggs in the ‘criticize ObamaCare’ basket. They don’t plan on doing anything popular in Congress this year. They don’t have a popular agenda to push to the public.

The relentless symbolic efforts to repeal ObamaCare and all the negative advertising are having an effect, but that only makes me wonder how the law would be polling in the absence of those attacks. After all, opposition to the law has almost become a cultural or tribal thing is some parts of the country.

In any case, if you want to have an idea about how the White House feels about this CNN poll, they’ve been making sure every journalist in town sees it. That might seem odd looking at the graphic, but only if you don’t know anything about polls.

[Cross-posted at Booman Tribune]

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com