The mainstream press has a habit of playing up poll results it likes without really scrutinizing the numbers underlying them.
ObamaCare-related polls, for some reason have often been simply repeated without careful examination. One such survey, conducted late last year, showed an increase in popularity for the law, but no media outlet that reported on it mentioned the poll's 15-point Democratic slant.
The latest ObamaCare poll to receive intense media focus, an AP/GfK survey, showed a decline in opposition to the law. The AP reported its findings thusly:
As lawmakers shaken by the shooting of a colleague return to the health care debate, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds raw feelings over President Barack Obama's overhaul have subsided.
Ahead of a vote on repeal in the GOP-led House this week, strong opposition to the law stands at 30 percent, close to the lowest level registered in AP-GfK surveys dating to September 2009.
The nation is divided over the law, but the strength and intensity of the opposition appear diminished. The law expands coverage to more than 30 million uninsured, and would require, for the first time, that most people in the United States carry health insurance.
The poll finds that 40 percent of those surveyed said they support the law, while 41 percent oppose it. Just after the November congressional elections, opposition stood at 47 percent and support was 38 percent.
Wow, that's quite a shift in public attitudes. One problem, though: AP/GfK massively increased Democratic representation in its sample. The bump in support almost perfectly mirrors the increase in self-identified Democrats over the previous AP/GfK poll.
Jeffrey Anderson of the Weekly Standard spotted the discrepancy:
When the AP/GfK poll screened for likely voters a couple of weeks before the election, it estimated that 48 percent of voters leaned Republican and that 42 percent leaned Democratic (which the election showed to be about right). In its latest survey -- the one that serves as the basis for the AP story -- AP/GfK didn't screen for likely voters and didn't screen for registered voters. Instead, it merely surveyed 1,001 adults. The result? The percentage of Democratic-leaning respondents stayed the same (42 percent), but the percentage of Republican-leaning respondents dropped by 12 points, to 36 percent.
As one would expect -- with the same percentage of Democratic-leaning respondents having been surveyed both times -- the level of support for Obamacare remained essentially unchanged: 41 percent supported it previously; 40 percent support it now. Just as unsurprisingly, when the percentage of Republican-leaning respondents dropped by 12 points, the level of opposition to Obamacare dropped by 11 points (from 52 to 41 percent).
The national lean Democrat/lean Republican partisan split is 45/44, according to Gallup.
The media narrative that has emerged since this poll was released has echoed the AP article: support for ObamaCare repeal is decreasing. A number of publications have used the poll to offer the same analysis. Here's a sampling of headlines based on this poll:
· "Obamacare In Better Health as Opposition Eases"
· "GOP wants repeal, but fervor slips in poll"
· "Opposition to healthcare law eases, poll finds"
· "AP-GfK Poll: Opposition to health care law eases"
· "Poll: Strong opposition to health care law drops"
You get the idea. All of those stories based their analyses on the AP/GfK poll. None of them mentioned the wide party affiliation gap.
None of this is to say, of course, that the new AP/GfK poll is more accurate than its previous one. A 48/42 split in the GOP's favor isn't any more accurate than the 42/36 Democratic advantage (in measuring registered voters, it is, but in gauging the entire nation's feelings about the law, it isn't). But contrary to much of the media's reporting, the claim that the law is increasing in popularity is not supported by this new poll.
By the way, in the two days since this poll's findings were published, two other surveys, from ABC/WaPo and Rasmussen, have shown continued support (or at least no noticable drop in support) for repealing ObamaCare. Don't expect either to get significant media play.