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Obama Understates Americans' Support for Repeal

4:20 PM, Feb 9, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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When asked by Bill O'Reilly in his pre-Super Bowl interview why public opinion is so against Obamacare, President Obama replied: "Actually, I think it's pretty evenly – it's evenly divided, Bill." That's only true in the sense that the Obama-McCain presidential race, decided by 7 points, was also "evenly divided." According to the average results of the four most recent health care polls listed by Real Clear Politics CNN, Rasmussen, Fox, and CBS/New York Times – Americans support the full repeal of Obamacare by nearly 10 percentage points: 51 to 41.5 percent.

Obama Understates Americans' Support for Repeal

But even that number significantly underestimates support for repeal. The median result of the four polls is 53 to 40.5 percent, a margin of 12.5 points. That's because the outlier poll is CBS/New York Times, whose margin is 16 points removed from any of the other three polls and 24 points removed from the average of the other three polls. While CNN, Rasmussen, and Fox all show Americans supporting repeal by between 8 and 21 percentage points, the CNN/New York Times poll shows Americans opposing repeal by 8 points. 

Why would CNN/New York Times show this result? A large part of the answer is that the poll included 34 percent Democrats and only 27 percent Republicans. In comparison, exit polling from the most recent election showed Republicans and Democrats evenly divided (with 35 percent apiece), while Gallup now shows the two parties tied in party affiliation, at 28 percent apiece (with the GOP leading 47 to 43 percent when including "leaners").  So the CNN/New York Times poll includes a sample of respondents that doesn't remotely represent the current political reality.

CNN and Fox actually also oversample Democrats in their polls – at least compared to the exit polls and to Gallup's party identification figures – but not by anything close to the degree that the CNN/New York Times does.  Only Rasmussen includes an even mix of Democrats and Republicans. 

If we average the CNN, Fox, and Rasmussen polls, we find that Americans support Obamacare's full repeal by a margin of 16 points (55 to 39 percent). Even though this average still includes some oversampling of Democrats, it probably comes pretty close to reflecting the truth. But any way you cut it, public opinion is not "evenly divided," or even "pretty evenly divided."

Now, in the wake of the House repeal vote, what the American public really wants to see is a viable replacement put forth by House Republicans. The American people would welcome a replacement that would lower health costs, stop the tax code from discriminating against the uninsured, and provide generous funding for state-run community pools (to help make sure that coverage is available to those with prohibitively expensive preexisting conditions).

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