Thursday, October 9, 2014

Greenberg-Ayres Battleground Poll Probes ACA "Opposition From the Left" with Novel Question-Wording

I've just finished listening to a Political Wire podcast, posted yesterday, in which Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg discusses a recent poll he conducted with Republican pollster Whit Ayres in states with "battleground" U.S. Senate races (almost certainly a more GOP-friendly electorate than is the case nationally) and the implications of the poll findings for the upcoming November elections.

Roughly between the 15:00-20:00 minute points of the interview, Greenberg discusses the portion of the poll pertaining to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), particularly regarding opposition to the law from the political left. Opposition from the left is not a new issue, as I (and other observers, such as Mark Blumenthal) have discussed it frequently in the past (herehere, here, and here).

Pollsters' attempts to assess reasons for opposition to the ACA have taken various forms. CNN/Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) has used the wording "Do you oppose that bill because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think its approach toward health care is not liberal enough?" Other pollsters have asked whether respondents who oppose the ACA do so because it goes "too far" or "doesn't go far enough" (Ipsos-McClatchy) or because it involves too much or too little government entanglement with health care (Public Policy Polling).

Back in 2009, Blumenthal quoted Megan McArdle to the effect that the too-far/not-far-enough wording was susceptible to multiple interpretations. The phrase "not going far enough," McArdle argued, could have either a liberal, pro-government health care interpretation (i.e., the ACA didn't go far enough in expanding Medicare or creating a government single-payer system), or a conservative/libertarian interpretation (i.e., the ACA didn't go far enough in cutting back government subsidies of health care or means-testing programs).

This is where Greenberg and Ayres come in. To overcome the inherent lack of clarity in previously used terms such as "too far," these pollsters adopted the following wording (which Greenberg says was developed by Ayres) in their recent survey, to ask respondents who opposed the ACA why they did so. Opponents of the law were given the following two choices:

I'm opposed because it's a big government solution that we cannot afford. 

I'm opposed because you still have to buy private insurance and I'd prefer a single-payer, government-run system like Canada.

In response to the initial ACA question on the Greenberg-Ayres poll ("Do you support or oppose the health care reform law that passed in 2010, also known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare?"), more respondents expressed opposition (54%) than supported it (42%). However, among the ACA opponents, 36% chose the anti-insurance company, pro-single payer option (about evenly divided between "strongly" and "somewhat" advocating that view).

(In the interview, Greenberg states that "one-fifth of the opponents are opposed because it's not a government-run, Canadian system." Perhaps he was referring only to the respondents who strongly endorsed the single-payer option.)

Greenberg discusses additional interesting issues in the interview besides the ACA, but naturally given the focus on this blog, the ACA question-wording was what I seized upon.