Are the biggest opponents of health care reform the nation's headline writers?
Because once again, a newspaper's headline of its own poll fails to report the real news about public support for health care reform.
Last week it was USA Today, refusing to acknowledge that the public supports several methods for raising the necessary funds to pay for expanding health insurance coverage.
Today, it's the Washington Post, offering up the misleading headline, "Poll Shows Obama Slipping on Key Issues -- Approval Rating on Health Care Falls Below 50 Percent."
What the headline does not tell its readers is the actual health care policy the President supports -- including a public plan option -- still polls strong, particularly among independents as well as Democrats.
The Post buries the news in the ninth paragraph: (emphasis added)
On health care, the poll, conducted by telephone Wednesday through Saturday, found that a majority of Americans (54 percent) approve of the outlines of the legislation now heading toward floor action. The measure would institute new individual and employer insurance mandates and create a government-run plan to compete with private insurers. Its costs would be paid in part through new taxes on high-income earners. There are sharp differences in support for this basic package based on income, as well as a deep divide along party lines. Three-quarters of Democrats back the plan, as do nearly six in 10 independents.
Yes, the Post poll shows some slippage in Obama's personal rating when it comes to health care. But any professional analysis of the poll has to look at the entire poll. if there is a disconnect between the person and the policy, obviously, the policy isn't the problem.
What could the problem for Obama be?
There is plenty of concern about the rising deficit in the poll. Despite the fact that the president has relentlessly expressed his commitment to health care reform that reduces long-term costs, obstructionists and their enablers in the media continue to distort CBO reports and ignore presidential proposals that could reduce costs.
So it's very possible that all the baseless attacks on Obama regarding the deficit have had a negative impact, hurting his ability to leverage public support for comprehensive reform.
Obama has repeatedly shown his ability to make a detailed case to the public in the face of misinformation. And this week he plans to aggressively step up his advocacy. Once he is able to communicate that his plans will in fact tackle deficit concerns, expect his personal health care numbers to line back up with the health care policy numbers.
So this won't even be a fair fight.
But most importantly, the W. Post poll is merely the latest poll to show broad support for a public plan option to help provide health care for all.
Any attempt to use the poll to claim that the bills passed by key House and Senate committees which include a public plan option lack public support should be roundly mocked and dismissed.