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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Reviewing Polls

Earlier this week we wrote about a television ad from Americans United for Change and found it to be misleading. The ad claimed that "a new poll shows that 62 percent of Americans support" President Obama’s "plan to reform health care." Americans United for Change disagreed with our analysis and Deputy Communications Director Lauren Weiner sent us an e-mail to say:

Weiner: Our "62%" ad is based on the Diageo/Hotline poll which asked voters if they supported Congress and the President enacting major overhaul of health care. 62% of respondents said they support this effort. That does not imply that 62% support every thing listed, rather such reform proposed by President Obama. President Obama has been crystal clear about what he wants to see in a plan. He has been adamant about the need for a public health care option as well as the need to ensure people can keep their own doctors and health care if they like it — outlining this several times directly before the poll was taken. Americans understand what the president wants.

We respectfully disagree. Since he has not proposed a specific plan, it is still a matter of interpretation whether Obama "has been crystal clear" about changes to the health care system and whether "Americans understand what the president wants." The Diageo/Hotline poll did not ask any questions about a public health insurance plan. Nor did it ask whether respondents specifically supported the "president’s plan," as the group’s ad claims. Rather, it asked respondents whether they supported a more generic "major overhaul of the U.S. health care system."

Weiner also pointed us to two other polls (not cited in the ad) as support for the 62 percent claim. One, from the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that "83 percent support a new public plan option that anyone could purchase." Obama has certainly voiced support for a public option, but this isn’t the poll question cited in the ad.

Another poll was done by Lake Research Partners for the Herndon Alliance, a coalition of groups in favor of changing the U.S. health care system. It has not been made public yet, but Weiner sent us a portion of an executive summary, which we’ve posted here. It includes a bar graph showing that 65 percent of respondents favor the "Obama reform plan." However, without the full methodology or list of questions, we don’t know what was actually being surveyed.