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Public Opinion Polls: Which Ones Can You Trust?

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When it comes to health care reform, there has been no shortage of public opinion polls. Rasmussen Reports publishes a new feeler study every week, while the Kaiser Family Foundation conducts a new study every month. And while these surveys can often be a wonderful indicator of public opinion, at times they simply make things even more unclear.

Take, for example, the recent controversy surrounding a poll on The poll invited readers to choose from three options expressing their feelings on health reform – but none of those options included being in favor of the bill. Even for Fox News, a site known for its reliance on right-leaning statistics, this seems to be a bit of a stretch.

Then there are the times when two different surveys offer competing results. A recent USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 49 percent of Americans think it’s “a good thing” that Congress passed the health reform bill. Half described their reaction using positive words, such as “enthusiastic” or “pleased,” while about four in ten used negative words such as “disappointed” and “angry.” In fact, in that survey, 48 percent called the bill a good first step that should be followed by more action on health care.

However, a Bloomberg poll conducted around the same time by Selzer & Co. found that 50 percent opposed the measure Congress passed, and 39 percent were in favor.

What’s going on here? Are these studies talking to two different groups of Americans? Are Americans so fickle that they are changing their mind from one day to the next? Or is it simply possible for someone to think it’s a good thing that change has come, even if they don’t necessarily support the package it’s come in?

I’m inclined to think the latter. Many of the agents I’ve spoken to have said that they recognize the need for health reform of some kind, they’re just not crazy about the details of the plan that passed. Still, they’re glad to see that some action has been taken – Obama’s plan, according to agents I speak with, can serve as a good jumping-off point. As more amendments come in over the next four years and beyond, the plan will get tweaked and modified, and will ultimately become something that we can all live with. Because of that, they are happy, in a way, that health reform is on the table.

What do you think? Is any reform good, so long as we’re talking about the issue? Or should the legislation be perfect the first time around? Comment below and let us know!

Heather Trese is the associate editor of the Agent’s Sales Journal.


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