We hesitate to bring more attention to something that pretty much didn't make a ripple, but when the Herald picks up only the misleading part of a State House New Service story, leaving out our responses, and when right-wing blogs start spreading the news, it's up to us provide fairness and balance.
The issue is a poll released yesterday by the infamous Rasmussen Reports. The poll purports to show only 26% of Massachusetts voters think health reform is a success, while 37% think it's a failure (37% are not sure).
The poll was taken for the Boston Fox TV station, and the pollster is well-known for skewing results to the right:
"[P]olling is a crowded business. And Rasmussen doesn’t also have a daily newspaper or a television network to tout his results. His business, however, requires attention. So how does he get that attention? Well in part he gets it with issue polling that, while basically methodologically sound, has question-wording that’s designed to lead to conservative-friendly results." - Matt Ygelesias
"But the qualitative questions, in terms of their phrasing and so forth, are frequently skewed to give answers friendly toward GOP or conservative viewpoints." - Joshua Marshall
"Rasmussen is influential because its carefully crafted questions that produce answers that conservatives like. .. The result is that polls with extremely favorable numbers for Republican stances leap into the public arena every week, quickly becoming accepted wisdom." - David Wegel
This June 20 graph, from polling guru Nate Silver, shows how Rasumussen's polling on national health reform is an outlier compared to every other polling firm:
Like the polls in the graph, everyone else find that health reform has broad support in Massachusetts. The Rasmussen question was worded in terms of "success" or "failure," with no context or explanation.
The Urban Institute survey asked a much better-worded question in summer 2008:
“Now I have some general questions about health insurance in Massachusetts. As you may know, Massachusetts has a law that is aimed at providing health insurance for all Massachusetts residents. In general, do you support or oppose this Massachusetts law?”
The results were: Support: 74%; Oppose: 14% (Don’t know: 12%)
The Urban Institute poll used a sample that included cell phone-only households, unlike Rassmussen. The Urban sample exceeded 4,900 households, compared to the Rassmussen sample of 500. The sample was also weighted using a validated algorithm to correct for sample bias.
Similarly, the Harvard School of Public Health polled 963 residents last summer, and found 69% support and 22% opposition among people familiar with the law.
There's no question in our minds that the Rasmussen poll was done to influence the debate in Washington, and to provide speech fodder for those opposed to national reform.
Health reform has been enormously successful in its stated goal - expanding access to the uninsured. The remaining challenges of cost and quality are being addressed, but more remains to be done. We're not stopping.