Thursday, October 25, 2007

SCHIP Polling

So the Fighting 29th has a lengthy reply to my last post, and I do agree with him that "[w]hen pollsters try to probe the reasons behind the thumb up or down, they have to inject some facts into their questions, and their choice of facts adds some bias to their questions." There's no question about that, and it makes the pollster's job a lot harder to gage public opinion on specific issues (especially one as complex as SCHIP expansion) versus who one plans to vote for or the job approval of a specific politician.

That being said, I do take issue with the other polls the Fighting 29th cites, as the questions they asked are extremely "unloaded." For example, here's the main question which the Gallup poll asked, where 52% agreed with Bush and 40% agreed with Democrats:
As you may know, the Democrats want to allow a family of four earning about $62,000 to qualify for the program. President Bush wants most of the increases to go to families earning less than $41,000. Whose side do you favor?
This question is as specific as they come, and goes to the heart of the issue for why President Bush and Congressman Kuhl do not agree with the Democrats, i.e., what should the income cap be for families participating in the program?

However, here's the question that the CBS poll asked, where 81% agreed with expanding SCHIP:

Notice that the question doesn't ask by how much, nor does it give any context to the issue. In fact, if I didn't follow this debate so closely and I was simply asked whether I supported expanding a plan called the State Children's Health Insurance Program, I'd say yes too.

The Washington Post/ABC New poll was more specific. It asked:
There's a proposal to increase federal spending on children's health insurance by 35 billion dollars over the next five years. It would be funded by an increase in cigarette taxes. (Supporters say this would provide insurance for millions of low-income children who are currently uninsured.) (Opponents say this goes too far in covering children in families that can afford health insurance on their own.) Do you support or oppose this increased funding for this program? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
When this question was asked, 72% supported expansion. Yet note that this poll does NOT address the issue of income levels, as the Gallup poll did. It only asks if people support spending more money on children's health insurance, and that it would be funded through an increase in cigarette taxes (though it doesn't point out that the increase was going to be as high as 61 cents a pack). Again, if I didn't follow this issue so closely and was given this question, I might have said yes, though would have been more reluctant to than the CBS poll.

As for the CNN poll, I unfortunately can't find the polling data online, but this is the story lede:
A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows a majority of Americans want Congress to override President Bush’s veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, otherwise known as SCHIP.
If this isn't media bias, I don't know what is. Bush did NOT veto SCHIP; he only vetoed the Democrats' plan to expand the program by so much, which as we know, included upper-middle class families and illegal immigrants.

I strongly disagree with the Fighting 29th's claim that Congressman Kuhl was trying to "cherry-pick the one poll that agrees with my position." Instead, given the options of the polls out there, there was only one that specificly addressed the real issue at hand, and it showed that a majority of Americans agreed with Congressman Kuhl's position.

That being said on SCHIP polling, let's move on. The Fighting 29th has a post up that there's a compromise being discussed on SCHIP that may address the concerns Congressman Kuhl had over the income levels of program participants and whether illegal aliens and adults should be covered, all of which are reasonable concerns. Let's hope this turns into a meaningful debate, versus the emotional hysterics shown the last time around.

1 comment:

Rottenchester said...

Whether or not the USA Today poll was cherry picked, I'm pretty confident that my post showed that it is an outlier when compared to other national, reputable polls. But, I guess we'll agree to disagree.

Setting aside polls, what's also interesting to me about this debate is that its structure is different from other recent issue debates between Dems and Republicans. Usually, the R's are defending a position that can be summed up with a short catchphrase (e.g., no new taxes) and the D's are the ones complaining that the issue is more complex and trying to "educate" the electorate.

In this case, the shoe's on the other foot. The D's are defending a simple premise (insure more children) and the R's are having to publicize the reasons why the issue is more complex. This post is a good example - you need to go digging into the details of the polls, while D's can just cite the high-level outcome of 3 of 4 national polls.

That probably explains why the D's are hitting this so hard - they think they have a winner. And it might explain why some moderate R's in the House are ready to sign on to a compromise brokered by other Republicans.