NBC’s Chuck Todd Twists Poll Findings to Fish for Good News on ObamaCare

Polls have not been kind to President Obama or his health care law lately, and MSNBC has had no choice but to acknowledge that fact. However, on Wednesday’s Andrea Mitchell Reports, NBC News political director Chuck Todd desperately fished for a silver lining in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll numbers on ObamaCare.

Todd told Mitchell that health care was the key to the president turning around his own low approval ratings. While acknowledging that 50 percent of poll respondents said ObamaCare is a bad idea, Todd found a faint ray of sunshine for supporters of the law. He told the host:


"You dig in underneath and you realize this, Andrea. Eighty percent of folks say they're satisfied with their own health care coverage. That level of satisfaction has gone up since implementation, not down."
 

Looking at the original poll, Todd added two numbers together to get that figure: 44 percent said they were “very satisfied” with the medical care and health coverage they and their family receive, and 36 percent said they were “somewhat satisfied” with their coverage. It’s true that the combined satisfaction level has risen since September, as Todd said. But considering that nobody has actually received care under the Affordable Care Act yet, the law can’t have anything to do with all of that satisfaction. Eighty percent of people are satisfied with their own coverage in spite of ObamaCare, so that finding doesn’t do much to boost the administration’s case.

Todd then continued with more of what he thought was positive news: “Number two, 58 percent of folks admit that the health care law has had no impact on them. Now, add that 58 percent with the 12 percent that say the health care law has had a positive impact and suddenly you have 70 percent of the country saying positive or no impact at all.”

It’s amazing what one can do with statistics. Here’s one for you, Mr. Todd. If you take the 58 percent of folks who say the health care law has not had much of an impact on them, and add the 27 percent who say it’s had a negative impact, according to your poll, suddenly you have 85 percent of the country saying the law has had a negative impact or no impact at all. Neat trick, isn’t it?

There was a similar question in the poll that Todd ignored. When asked about ObamaCare’s impact on the country’s health care system rather than one’s family, 54 percent said it was having a negative impact, while only 24 percent said it was having a positive impact. That particular finding would have been tougher to spin, so Todd left it out.

He also left out a nugget that Neil King, Jr. of The Wall Street Journal noted in his story on the poll in Wednesday's paper. King wrote that "the law's unpopularity jumped the most among the uninsured" with "[f]ully half" of them "now think[ing] the law was a bad idea," compared with "34% [who] saw it that way" back in September, before the disastrous rollout.

Todd made this conclusion about his two sunny observations: “[I]t is very possible if the rollout works, you could see hostility toward the law recede.”

You know we’ve fallen a long way when Todd’s best hope for ObamaCare is that hostility toward the law might recede, but only if the rollout somehow gets back on the rails and ends up succeeding. Those hopeful days of 2010, when the law was passed, seem like ages ago. 

Below is a transcript of the segment:

ANDREA MITCHELL: So now what does the White House do to reboot, you guys? We see, you know, John Podesta coming in, Phil Schiliro coming back, Chuck. Is that going to make enough of a difference?



CHUCK TODD: Well, it all depends. It could. It all really depends on health care. And I think the idea here is this isn't about, oh, the president needs to do more events about the minimum wage or he needs to do more events about the economy. The fact of the matter is the public is going to tune him out on everything else until he fixes health care, until he fixes the implementation and the rollout.

Now, you look just today, they have some new enrollment numbers. If you're in the White House, very encouraging sign that clearly the website is working a heck of a lot better today than it has in a long time. And you see that. And if enrollment starts improving -- and you know, there's a couple of very important numbers on health care in our poll. That – while the 50 percent number, first time, bad idea – that's obviously a bad top-line number. You dig in underneath and you realize this, Andrea. Eighty percent of folks say they're satisfied with their own health care coverage. That level of satisfaction has gone up since implementation, not down. Number two, 58 percent of folks admit that the health care law has had no impact on them. Now, add that 58 percent with the 12 percent that say the health care law has had a positive impact and suddenly you have 70 percent of the country saying positive or no impact at all. If that continues to be the case, it is very possible if the rollout works, you could see hostility toward the law recede. Is it going to be politically divisive still? Sure. But if the hostility recedes, then suddenly the president can get traction. I'm talking about minimum wage, talking about the economy, talking about investments, talking about education. It sort of clears the decks. But it all hinges on finishing the implementation.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.