Healthcare got popular because liberals came around

The plan polled badly when progressives opposed it, and well with them on board. Coincidence?

Published March 24, 2010 2:25PM (EDT)

Three quick observations on the apparently stunning turnaround in public support for the healthcare bill in the USA Today/Gallup poll now making the rounds of the blogosphere.

First, it is only one poll, and occasionally polls are outliers. That's just the nature of statistics. So well need to see more polls to be convinced the numbers are correct.

However, these numbers are not exactly surprising if you go back to my previous post on the topic of public opinion and health care reform, in which I noted that some of the people opposing the health care bill were doing so because it did not go far enough (i.e., should have moved policy further to the left). What is probably going on right now is that a non-trivial proportion of people who wanted a public option or even single-payer healthcare are starting to swing behind the bill as "a good first step." The opposition to the bill from the right (those who think it went too far) is still there, but, as the USA Today article notes, this opposition comes overwhelmingly from Republicans and is apparently not a majority of the population, just as I suggested in my previous post.

Which bring me to my third point. Although I don't have any data on this, anecdotally it seems that an awful lot of the Republican opposition to the bill of late has centered on the idea that healthcare reform was rammed through Congress despite the opposition of a majority of Americans (Glenn Greenwald has a nice summary of some of these types of comments). If the USA Today/Gallup numbers hold up, that is going to be an increasingly difficult argument to make. And as many commentators have noted, the bill is of course filled with numerous changes that are extremely popular with Americans, and many of these go into effect sooner rather than later, which suggests support for the bill -- if anything -- is likely to grow in the short term. Can the Republicans make an about face and start attacking the bill more on its merits and less on its popular support? I'm sure they will try, but they'd probably be much better off just going back to the state of the economy.

Joshua A. Tucker is Associate Professor of Politics at New York University and a Truman National Security Fellow. The original version of this post appears on the Monkey Cage.

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Healthcare Reform Polling