Reporting Healthcare Wrong

| Wed Mar. 23, 2011 11:58 AM EDT

CNN reports on the public's view of healthcare reform one year after passage:

CNN Poll: Time doesn't change views on health care law

Thirty-seven percent of Americans support the measure, with 59 percent opposed. That's basically unchanged from last March, when 39 percent supported the law and 59 percent opposed the measure.

I know I'm a partisan hack who wants to put the best lefty spin on healthcare stories, but this is just plain wrong. Dave Weigel looks at the internals, which show that of the 59% who "oppose" ACA, 13% wish that it went further, and rewrites CNN's headline:

Poll: One Year On, Most Favor Health Care Law or Wish It Was More Liberal

Overall, [46] percent of people oppose the law because it's "too liberal," but 13 percent oppose it because it's "not liberal enough." So 50 percent of voters are either fine with the law or want a more liberal bill, to [46] percent who want it gone because it's too socialistic.

The CNN story does acknowledge this in a weird, roundabout way a few paragraphs down, but an awful lot of people don't read more than a few paragraphs and are going to come away with the impression that 59% of the population think national healthcare reform is a bad idea. And that's wrong: only about 46% do. Half of Americans want either ACA or something more.

My take on this is that healthcare pollsters simply need to do away with their obsession with "favor" and "oppose." You just can't report poll results on ACA this way. You should report them in the very first paragraph as split between people who think ACA went too far, is about right, or doesn't go far enough. Or something similar. It's really the only way to fairly report this stuff.

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