Unstable Public Opinion

Joseph White, a professor of politics at Case Western Reserve University, made this interesting observation in his weekend column in The Fiscal Times:

“On most issues, there is no such thing as a stable “public opinion.” People do have general attitudes, beliefs that they can use to evaluate a choice. But often voters hold different attitudes that would lead to different evaluations of the same choice. How they answer a question depends on which considerations have been raised in their minds most recently.”

Therefore the analysts who predict Democratic defeats in November based on negative survey responses about health care reform now are making a fundamental error. The Republicans have shown great ability to raise considerations that push the evaluation in one direction. Yet some of that effort has been encouraged by the concerns conservative Democrats raised during the debate as they tried to make legislation better fit their preferences. They will not be making those arguments as they run for reelection. In the election campaign there would be far more spending on ads to defend the legislation. The press coverage may focus more on the actual provisions of the bill as opposed to the GOP charges. But focusing on the actual specifics will only be possible if there is a law that passed and can be defended. Democrats have to be able to point to something and say: “this is what we did, this is the truth about it, this is how it would help you.”

The Democrats also have to remember that the “losers who can’t deliver” consideration will be far more prominent in November if they pass nothing now. In short, the battle over interpretation of the health care reform effort has only begun. We do not know how it will turn out in November, but there are good reasons to believe the Democrats are better off fighting it with a new law in hand.”

Merrill Goozner has been writing about economics and health care for many years. The former chief economics correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, Merrill has written for a long list of publications including the New York Times, The American Prospect and The Washington Post. His most recent book, “The $800 Million Dollar Pill – The Truth Behind the Cost of New Drugs ” (University of California Press, 2004) has won acclaim from critics for its treatment of the issues facing the health care system and the pharmaceutical industry in particular. You can read more pieces by Merrill at  Gooznews.com.

Categories: Uncategorized

Tagged as: