Sunday, December 22, 2013

Greg Sargent conflates two very different polling questions

On Friday, WaPo blogger Greg Sargent looked at some recent polling about Republican opinions on health care.

Here is the first question discussed:

Do you approve or disapprove of the part in the 2010 health care law that provides financial help to low and moderate income Americans who don’t get health insurance through their jobs to help them purchase coverage?

When asked that, 56% of Republicans approved, and 40% disapproved.

Another poll asked respondents whether providing health coverage for the poor is the responsibility of the federal government. Republicans said "no" 70% to 25%.

Sargent can't see the difference between these two questions and attributes the huge gap in response to the use of the word "government." However, the questions are not asking the same thing at all. The first question refers to the subsidies (or tax credits) available to some people who buy health insurance on the exchanges. The question relates to the concept of the voucher: the government gives you some money to facilitate a private purchase on the market. The government does not manage anything, and it only partially finances.

The second question, however, asks about provision of public benefits. This question relates more closely to Medicaid, even though Medicaid is still run at the state level (but with the help of federal funding).

If public goods and vouchers were the same thing, then liberals would have no problem with Paul Ryan's plan for Medicare. That, of course, is not the case at all.

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