My first clue that the new WaPo/ABC poll had big problems in its sampling came from question 38 of the raw data released by ABC last night, the generic Congressional ballot. Most polls have that within the margin of error; both Rasmussen and Pew have it at a dead heat. The WaPo/ABC survey has Democrats winning that matchup by twelve points, 51%/39%.
That tends to discredit much of what the Post reports this morning:
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that support for a government-run health-care plan to compete with private insurers has rebounded from its summertime lows and wins clear majority support from the public.
Americans remain sharply divided about the overall packages moving closer to votes in Congress and President Obama’s leadership on the issue, reflecting the partisan battle that has raged for months over the administration’s top legislative priority. But sizable majorities back two key and controversial provisions: both the so-called public option and a new mandate that would require all Americans to carry health insurance.
Independents and senior citizens, two groups crucial to the debate, have warmed to the idea of a public option, and are particularly supportive if it would be administered by the states and limited to those without access to affordable private coverage.
But in a sign of the fragile coalition politics that influence the negotiations in Congress, Obama’s approval ratings on health-care reform are slipping among his fellow Democrats even as they are solidifying among independents and seniors. Among Democrats, strong approval of his handling of the issue has dropped 15 percentage points since mid-September.
The sampling comprises 33% Democrats, as opposed to only 20% Republicans. That thirteen-point spread is two points larger than their September polling, at 32%/21%. More tellingly, it’s significantly larger than their Election Day sample, which included 35% Democrats to 26% Republicans for a gap of nine points, about a third smaller than the gap in this poll. Of course, that’s when they were more concerned about accuracy over political points of view.
Remember when I wrote that poll watchers need to remember the recent Gallup poll on party affiliation? Gallup polled 5,000 adults and found that the gap between Democrats and Republicans had closed to the smallest margin since 2005, six points, and had been reduced more than half since the beginning of the year. For the WaPo/ABC poll, though, their sample gap has increased almost 50% during that time.
Given that skew, it’s hardly surprising that they find a 57% approval rating for Obama, up three points since last month, almost the entirety of the gap increase since the last poll. His 48% tie on health care should be a significant disapproval instead, and the 45%/51% slide on the deficit has probably expanded at the same rate as the deficit in a survey with a realistic sample.
However, even that support seems rather … murky. In question 6, “Overall, given what you know about them, would you say you support or oppose the proposed changes to the health care system being developed by (Congress) and (the Obama administration)?”, only 45% said they approved, while 48% said they disapproved. The public-option question gets asked in this manner:
8. Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?
I’d call that more than a little biased. The “compete with private insurance” is a political claim by ObamaCare advocates. The private insurance industry competes within itself, just as all markets do. The government plan would not compete, but would undercut prices while getting subsidized on losses, while the same government imposes “fees” and new taxes on insurers. It’s no more “competition” than it would be to have Wal-Mart run the retail business and assess fees on its “competitors” for the privilege of existence.
On that question, the public option gets the exact same numbers as Obama’s approval ratings. Consider the implications of that in regards to this skewed survey.