What Good are Polls on RyanCare?

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


Another day, another poll on Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to voucherize Medicare. The latest one comes from two liberal groups, Herndon Alliance and Know Your Care, which found that voters rejected RyanCare by a 16-point margin, with 54 percent of voters opposing the plan and 38 percent supporting it.

Via Greg Sargent, here’s the way the plan was described to voters: “Instead of the government paying doctors and hospitals directly for treating seniors as Medicare does now, the government would provide vouchers to help seniors buy their own private health insurance policy.” Among two key voting blocs, opposition was even more adamant, with nearly 58 percent of seniors and 60 percent of independents rejecting the plan.

But as Jonathan Chait points out, it’s important to take all these one-off polls with a grain of salt, particularly those commissioned by groups with an agenda. “Advocacy groups for every cause under the sun like to commission polls that show that the public agrees with them, and it can almost always be done if the wording is just right. If that somehow fails, the pollster-for-hire can present the respondents with arguments that are designed to push them toward the desired result,” Chait writes.

What’s more, the problem with this type of poll is that they often pose the question outside of a broader political discussion or debate—the context in which voters are far more likely to encounter them, as opposed to a succinct, one-message description. To that end, Nate Silver highlights a poll recently conducted by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation that presented voters with the broader arguments that the supporters and opponents of RyanCare have been making:

To the 50 percent who were opposed to the plan originally, Kaiser recited a series of arguments that resemble those that Mr. Ryan himself is making: That the plan would reduce the deficit, that the plan would increase choice and that it would save Medicare from fiscal insolvency. Some respondents, 17 percent of those who were originally opposed to the plan, changed their mind after hearing these arguments.

Meanwhile, to the voters who originally supported the plan, Kaiser read another set of arguments, those which resemble the ones that Democrats are making. They said that the plan would increase health care costs and reduce benefits, would do too much to empower private insurance companies, and would “eliminate traditional Medicare.” Upon hearing these arguments, 42 percent of voters who originally supported the plans changed their minds and said they were no longer in favor of it.

Democrats, in other words, seem to have the more persuasive side of the argument — their case was more than twice as likely to change a voter’s mind.

So while both the Herndon Alliance/Know Your Care and Kaiser polls are likely to cheer Democrats who are betting that RyanCare is widely unpopular, the results of the latter may be a better indicator of how voters will really react to Democratic entreaties to reject the GOP plan.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate