Thursday, April 3, 2014

NPR Ignores The Numbers In Its Own Survey Report To Skew A Story For Republicans

In its typical practice of having a report on Obamacare presented by Mara Liasson this moring.  That's THE Mara Liasson who NPR shares with FOX "News" -  And everyone knows that FOX practices the highest standards of unbiased news reporting, now, don't they?

Of course she spun the numbers from NPR's pollsters to be big trouble for Obamacare, Obama and Democrats in November.  If I were a billionaire I'd commission someone to study how even the best news for Democrats, such as the sign-up numbers for Obamacare that they couldn't help but reporting, somehow turns out to be big trouble for Democrats.

The polls show that 47% report being in favor of Obamacare and 51% poll as not favoring it.  The question, apparently, was "Do you support or oppose the health care reform law that passed in 2010, also known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare?"   People were apparently given the choices of  Somewhat support, Strongly support, Somewhat oppose or Strongly oppose.   I don't know what their margin of error was guessed as being but a 4% difference isn't an enormous gap, especially considering the flood of negative publicity given to the bad roll out of and the unprecedented and relentless attacks made on it by Republicans since they took over control of the congress.  And even Liasson and Steve Inskeep who did the intro,  had to admit that the numbers are moving up for those who favor the law.

What Liasson also had to admit is that within the "oppose" figures are 7% of "likely voters" didn't like it because it didn't go far enough. So it is entirely possible to interpret the poll as having 54% of those responding favoring either Obamacare or something stronger than Obamacare.

In fact, if you look at the page of the poll they commissioned,  THAT IS HOW IT IS REPORTED ON THE PAGE.   They came up with that 7% figure by asking

(IF OPPOSE)  Would you say you oppose the health care reform law because it goes too far in changing health insurance, or because it doesn't go far enough in changing health insurance?

In the report of the poll the numbers of supporters and those who oppose it BECAUSE IT DOESN'T GO FAR ENOUGH are combined to reach that 54% figure which they report ON PAGE 16 OF NPR'S OWN DOCUMENT  as "Total Support Healthcare Reform but which didn't make it into the report, which, along with Inskeep's intro, was decidedly skewed to favor Republicans.

I have a relative who hates Barack Obama and believed all of the horror stories about what Obamacare would bring, she has had a falling out with most of the family over the issue.  Yet, this same relative has taken advantage of it to have her 23-year-old daughter on her insurance and, DURING THE PAST MONTHS HAS FOUND A CHEAPER PLAN ON HER EXCHANGE.  She saves thousands of dollars a year for the plan she bought under Obamacare.   I don't know how she might vote in November, if her hatred of Democrats will overrule her desire to keep her daughter insured under a less expensive policy than was available to her before, but the chances are good she might not vote for someone who she believes will take that insurance away.  I have no doubt as to where she would appear in NPR's survey results, how she will vote in November is certainly less certain than it would have been without Obamacare.   I doubt I will be hearing reports from Mara and Steve about people like her.

I know, long time listeners to NPR will have wondered why I bothered to report the obvious, if they just read the title.   This is why.

Update:  Another difficulty with this report are the breakdowns into "strongly support or oppose."  What does that mean?  Since Liasson and the Republican pollster in the story put a lot of stock into those, claiming that the higher figures for those who "strongly oppose" are larger than those who "strongly support" the ACA.   How do they know what that means, since it is entirely based on the self-reporting of those surveyed, without any kind of definition as to what that mean?  I would guess that some of those who favor single-payer or the compromise position of a public option would feel very strongly about it, so their assumption that those figures are an obvious benefit to Republican is not based in what was asked and the answers given.

I think it would probably be a good idea for pollsters to not include those kinds of undefined, emotional reports in their figures because even they don't know what those mean to the people who give them those numbers.  But, then, I'm quite skeptical about the validity of opinion polling, altogether.   They certainly have no real value as news, certainly not as compared to the reporting of hard fact.  But that's hard and the results are so frequently unpopular with those who the facts don't favor.

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