Saturday, October 20, 2007

Poll Fisking - Academics, Journalists, and S-CHIP lies.

Okay, more on Tumulty, S-CHIP, and smear campaigns. The only reason I'm focusing on Tumulty is because she's apparently operating as a public relations envoy for the socialized medicine crowd. Perhaps this doesn't make her unique, but she caught my attention with her story in Time and her parroting of Think Progress talking points.
On October 17, Ms Tumulty put up a post on her blog titled: SCHIP: The latest polling numbers:
On the eve of the House vote on overriding the President's veto, this new survey, conducted by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health lays out a pretty stark political equation in favor of expanding the program. From the summary:
She then quotes the first few paragraphs of the summary of the poll (pdf), though her link doesn't go to what she cut and pasted. Maybe she's doing things the Think Progress way now and assuming nobody will ever click the links anyway. I don't need to quote as much as she did from the summary, but there's one sentence that's particularly important:
This asking was followed by a version of the question that provided proponents’ and opponents’ strongest arguments. Even when presented with these pros and cons, support stays at 65 percent.
That naturally made me curious to find out what pros and cons are presented in the poll (pdf). But the first thing I noticed was the third question. Check it out:
3. Over the past couple of weeks, Congress and the President have been debating the renewal of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as SCHIP (esschip). Would you say you have heard a lot, some, not too much or nothing at all about this issue?

20 A lot
28 Some
21 Not too much
31 Nothing at all
* Don’t know
-- Refused
52% have heard nothing or some degree of not too much. 28% know some degree of some, and 20% say they know a lot about it, probably consisting of activists, better informed people in general, and perhaps a few who will say they know a lot about it because they want to appear better informed. Apparently this group in general just doesn't know much about the issue. That fact is essential to the outcome of the next important poll question, which is relevant to the summary quote:
5. (Supporters say the expansion would prevent children who are already covered from losing their coverage and provide health insurance for millions of low-income children who are currently uninsured. They also say the program has been shown to be effective over the past ten years). (Opponents say the expansion would encourage some families who have private health insurance to drop it in favor of government funded coverage. They also say the expansion will wind up covering some children in middle-class families). After hearing these arguments, would you say you support or oppose the increased funding for this program? (em)

65 Support
28 Oppose
6 Don’t know
* Refused
One of the strongest arguments for the pro side is the Families USA lie. Keep in mind many of those polled don't know enough about to issue to see it as a lie. They're likely to take it as face value. And look at the opposing view presented. The first part is a dishonest re-framing of the argument. The critics say this will discourage people from obtaining private insurance if they don't have it already. The second part, with middle class, is very misleading. There are other suspicious questions in the poll, and be sure to read them, but as far as I'm concerned these two taken together reveal it as a push poll by interest groups. Any cursory examination of it makes that clear. However, Karen Tumulty posted it simply as the latest polling results.

About those interest groups: Here's what NPR, one the sponsors of the poll, said about it:
Support for reauthorizing and expanding SCHIP didn't fade much even after people heard the strongest arguments for and against adding 4 million children at a cost of $35 billion. Support for the plan stayed at 65 percent overall.
The press release from Keiser Network quoted NPR as saying researchers were were struck by "how strong support for the bill remained even after people were given the arguments against it." That suggests the "issue is not likely to go away anytime soon".

Of course they're gonna play that one up because it's the one based on the big lie. If you click through the links you'll see these interest groups form a network of research institutes acting in concert with the Families USA campaign. Looking at more of their research makes it clear they're all pushing for
universal coverage of one sort or another.

Now look at what NPR had on their Friday Morning Edition show:
Morning Edition, October 19, 2007 · Lawmakers are already starting to hammer out another version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program after a failed vote to turn back President Bush's veto. The current program expires Nov. 16. A recent poll by NPR, Kaiser and Harvard suggests that Americans will support a significant expansion.
They intend to use the bogus poll as the voice of the people and leverage to try again to get something like the last monstrosity they tried to ram through. The other players in this; Families USA, Kaiser, Commonwealth Fund, and CPBP are all on the same message.

As For Karen Tumulty, she posted a little summary of the S-CHIP battle, the failure to override the veto, and where it goes from here. Here's the gist:
The operative definition that congressional Republicans are looking for would fall into the "face-saving" category. They've lost this one politically; they know it; they just want it over. I would look for them to beg President Bush to seize on any modification to declare victory and retreat.
She's just doing her public relations job.