First of all, the trouble with this Yahoo/Reuters article is the same a lot of news suffers from: lack of context. We need to know the history of this issue to understand whether this is a new concern, which many readers will likely infer. If the issue's been around for a long time, then how would that be news? ‘Course it wouldn't be; it’d be "olds." And if we dig a little in the mainstream press and public opinion research, we find in fact that health care and Americans' interest in universal health care has been a big concern for a long time. A Harris poll in 2005 surveyed Americans on a range of health issues. It found that 75% of Americans "strongly favored" universal health care in the U.S. Interesting finding. However, the poll doesn't tell readers how Americans think it should be funded. Would Americans be willing to pay a bit higher income tax for this coverage? Questionable, given the popularity of tax breaks. Americans are notorious for having their cake and eating it too. A poll last year, for example, found that nearly 60% of Americans think the U.S.
tax system is unfair.
Going back further, what do you know? In October 2003, an ABC News/Washington Post poll “found that Americans prefer universal health care to the current health system by a margin of two to one. Even more revealing is the fact that Americans favor guaranteeing health insurance for all, ‘even if it means raising taxes.’” Indeed, some sources claim that Kaiser Foundation polls from 1992 to the present have shown majorities of Americans favoring universal health care for Americans or “health care guaranteed for all Americans,” but it’s not always clear what respondents understand by these terms.
Questions that ask what is a "top concern" among a variety of issues handpicked by pollsters can also be misleading. No one asks, "Do you want your government to address your top concern only or several of your concerns?" So, first of all, the questions in public opinion studies can be skewed and misrepresent public opinion in its deeper sense, a public agenda, which would, in turn, supposedly influence a legislative agenda--how representatives are supposed to serve their constituents or be thrown out.
Yet the way questions are asked and the way issues are presented in the news without giving a history of an issue and opinion about it, legislators are free to press on with pet issues that they may have put on the polling agenda in the first place (such as immigration, for instance). Nor do such questions about "opinion" often measure how well citizens understand opposing arguments on such issues. This is the problem with democracy by opinion polls. As the late Christopher Lasch pointed out, American democracy does not just need information; it also direly needs public debate and citizens capable of critically evaluating it.
Indeed, opinions that have not passed through the filter of public debate and information-gathering was not the vision of the father of modern public opinion polling, George Gallup. In his Public Opinion in Democracy(1939), Gallup argued “the people, having heard the debate on both sides of every issue, can express their will” in public opinion polls. The result would be the nation as “one great room.”
(also published by Blogcritics Magazine)
public opinion, polling, polls, news, problems, healthcare