Is the WaPo Stuffing Its Own Ballot Box for the 'Public Option'?

October 21st, 2009 7:51 AM

The Washington Post touted a new poll on Tuesday that popular support is increasing for a government-run "public option" health care system – just as liberal Democrats try to push that into the Senate Finance Committee bill. The headline was "Public option gains support: Clear majority now backs plan." So it’s not surprising, as Ed Morrissey found at Hot Air, that the Post is stuffing its poll sample with a few extra Democrats:

The sampling comprises 33% Democrats, as opposed to only 20% Republicans. That thirteen-point spread is two points larger than their September polling, at 32%/21%. More tellingly, it’s significantly larger than their Election Day sample, which included 35% Democrats to 26% Republicans for a gap of nine points, about a third smaller than the gap in this poll. Of course, that’s when they were more concerned about accuracy over political points of view.

The Post’s poll (illustrated by a chart) found respondents favored a public option "to compete with" private insurance by a margin of 57 to 40 percent. But even with the polling sample tilted toward the Democrats, some less favorable findings weren’t in the headline, as Dan Balz and Jon Cohen reported:

Overall, 45 percent of Americans favor the broad outlines of the proposals now moving in Congress, while 48 percent are opposed, about the same division that existed in August, at the height of angry town hall meetings over health-care reform.

Not only that, but what if the public favors liberal reform, but not the means to finance it?

But if there is clear majority support for the public option and the mandate [to buy private insurance], there is broad opposition to one of the major mechanisms proposed to pay for the bill. The Senate Finance Committee suggested taxing the most costly private insurance plans to help offset the costs of extending coverage to millions more people. Sixty-one percent oppose the idea, while 35 percent favor it.

The Post suggested their sample size, with 20 percent of Republicans, is merely a sign of GOP weakness. Morrissey dissented:

Remember when I wrote that poll watchers need to remember the recent Gallup poll on party affiliation? Gallup polled 5,000 adults and found that the gap between Democrats and Republicans had closed to the smallest margin since 2005, six points, and had been reduced more than half since the beginning of the year. [That included leaners toward either party.] For the WaPo/ABC poll, though, their sample gap has increased almost 50% during that time.