39 Democrats voted against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) health care reform package last Saturday, and conventional wisdom says this was a good move, campaign-wise. These lawmakers represent conservative districts--31 of 39 of which backed McCain in 2008--and the Democratic health care reform (whatever that may be, exactly) is opposed, on average, by most Americans--even though some reputable polls have shown strong, some would say overwhelming, support for the public option.
It stands to reason that, in the most conservative districts held by Democrats, voters are at least as cool on reform.
Democratic polling, however, says this isn't the case, and, while partisan-commissioned polling should always be looked at with a suspect eye, that doesn't mean it isn't worth looking at.
The Republican side isn't releasing its polling, but it hints that health reform is unpopular in its target districts.
"If health care is so popular, why are Democrats falling over each other to see who can oppose it?" a Republican campaign aide said, when asked.
A good point.
But the polling the left has done--and it's really all we have to go on, for a narrowed look at Democratic swing districts--says the opposite is true.
According to a poll conducted in September by Anzalone Liszt Research for the liberal interest-group coalition Health Care for America Now!, residents of districts held by Blue Dog Democrats say major health care reforms are necessary by a margin of 57-41.
When the Democratic plan is described, they support it 50-43. Polls commissioned by interested parties tend to yield favorable results for whoever is paying for the survey, and the phenomenon usually arises from the wording of the questions. So here's how Anzalone Liszt's pollsters described the Democratic health plan--you can judge for yourself:
Let me give you a little more information about the health insurance reform plan in Congress, and get your reaction
Under the plan, insurance companies would be required to cover people with pre-existing conditions, and couldn't charge more or cancel if you get sick. People could keep their existing insurance, but if they aren't covered at work they could choose between private insurance plans and a new public health insurance option. Everyone would be required to have health insurance, and families of four making less than eighty-eight thousand dollars would receive a discount. Small businesses would receive tax credits to help them provide coverage, and large companies would be required to either provide health insurance, or pay a tax to help employees buy their own coverage. The plan would be paid for with cost savings in the healthcare system, and higher taxes on households making over three hundred fifty thousand dollars a year.
And here's the methodology:
Anzalone Liszt Research conducted 1200 live telephone interviews with likely 2010 voters in 91 Blue Dog/Frontline/Rural Caucus House Districts between September 11-17, 2009. Respondents were selected at random, with interviews apportioned geographically based on past voter turnout. Expected margin of error for these results is ±2.8% with a 95% confidence level.
A poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlian Rosner for Democratic polling, research, and strategy firm Democracy Corps October 6-11, meanwhile, shows voters in the 20 most vulnerable Democratic seats think Republicans are doing a "better job" on health care, 46-42.
But in the 20 next-most vulnerable seats, the "tier 2" Democratic targets, voters said Democrats are doing a better job than Republicans on health care, by a margin of 47-40--a pretty solid preference for Democrats.
The "tier1" and "tier 2" districts are listed at the end of this memo. They're not to be confused with the current flights of targets as listed by the National Republican Congressional Committee, whose tier 1, 2, and 3 targets are somewhat fluid.
Here are the crosstabs, confusing as they are ("total Dems better" means the total percentage in the tier 1 or 2 districts that said Democrats are doing a better job on health care). Greenberg polled a total of 2,000 likely voters across 55 Democratic-held and 20 Republican-held districts.
So is all this polling to be believed? I leave it up to the reader. The national polling on health care seems to speak for itself, as do conventional wisdom and the GOP take. But it's interesting, and it throws into question just how voters will react if health reform passes with their representative supporting it.