So the Kaiser Family Foundation asked 1,202 randomly selected American adults some questions about the health insurance reform law — you know, that monstrosity the newly GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives calls “Obamacare” and keeps promising, loudly, to do all in its power to see repealed — and the results were not what we’ve come to expect, which is that Americans have some serious deficits in their knowledge of the things they at least pretend to care about. No, this was evidence that an awful lot of people are ignorant beyond most workaday slurs I can produce on short notice.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that healthcare is a significant concern to virtually every conscious and sentient citizen of this country, at least those not on loan from the planet Krypton or secretly crafted from complex circuitry and state-of-the-art alloys and hence impervious to biological ails. People need not even know legislative particulars such as the fact that health reform stems from the 201 passage of two separate bills, let alone the names of those bills (call them ACA and Reconciliation, if that helps) in order to have at least a tenuous grasp of the essentials. But people should at least possess a few strands of knowledge before casting an opinion — positive or negative — on an issue, even if it’s just yapping into a telephone to slake the eager beaver from the KFF at the other end. The result of last months poll demonstrate forcefully that people are perfectly willingness to judge the worth of its government’s machinations without knowing what these are or even if they are, at least in the healthcare realm, and that the ignorance-willingness disconnect is far more pronounced on the Republican side.
Here are the essentials. 43% of those polled have a favorable view of the reform law, while 48% hold an unfavorable view. The divide between Democrats and Republicans was sharp indeed: 66% of Dems and only 11% of Repubs report a favorable opinion, while 26% of Dems and a whopping 84% of Repubs hold an unfavorable one. Nevertheless, 50% of respondents, including 75% of Dems and 17% of Repubs, either want the law kept as is or expanded, while 39% — 18% of Dems and 74% of Repubs want it repealed.
If those numbers appear to clash, it gets better. When asked about the current status of the law, 22% believed that it had been repealed, 26% didn’t know or refused to answer, and 52% knew that it is still the law of the land. Nearly one in three Republicans think that the law has been repealed, meaning that at least some Repubs who want it repealed think that repealing a law twice is necessary or useful. Fewer than half knew that it was still law, compared to almost two-thirds of Dems — the latter not precisely encouraging, either.
There are a couple ways to interpret these data. The most optimistic interpretation is that the questions were confusing in some way and failed to elicit an accurate picture of the average American’s healthcare-law knowledge, rendering the poll itself of little value. A more realistic perspective is that Americans don’t have to know their asses from their elbows in order to listen to politicians bellow about the prevalence of elbows sticking out from between people’s buttocks and begin nodding grimly in agreement. But these are not mutually exclusive views, and the ineluctable truth is that either Washington has failed grandly to explain what the new laws encompass or–and this seems undeniable–those talking heads with a vested interest in obfuscating the facts, always a much easier task, have succeeded.