TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 2012
We’d have to say it depends: In this morning’s New York Times, three journalists report the results of a new survey concerning the health care law. To read the report, click here.
At first glance, we were most struck by Americans’ view concerning the individual mandate.
Oof! In response to question 3 in the survey, 67 percent of respondents said they wanted the mandate “overturned.” More specifically, 38 percent said they wanted the entire law overturned. An additional 29 percent said they wanted just the mandate overturned. (Given those choices, only 26 percent said they wanted “to keep the entire health care law in place.” To review the full survey, click this.)
The New York Times featured those results in its accompanying graphic. But uh-oh! The Times also featured the responses to survey question 11. In response to that question, 45 percent said they approve of the individual mandate; 51 percent said they disapprove.
Does this involve a contradiction? If only 51 percent of respondents “disapprove of a provision in the 2010 health care law that requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance by 2014,” why do 67 percent want to see the mandate overturned? Do you think a contradiction is involved? Or can you find your way out of this apparent puzzler?
For ourselves, we’re still pondering. A person might want to have the whole law overturned even though he or she doesn’t disapprove of the individual mandate. Does that explain the apparent puzzle? Is the apparent contradiction a mirage?
It’s possible. After all, in response to another question, 36 percent say they approve of the health care law; 47 percent say they disapprove, with the rest having no opinion. But if 36 percent approve, why do only 26 percent say they want the entire law to survive? Do some people approve of the overall law even though they disapprove of the individual mandate?
You won’t get any help from the Times! In best fashion, the Times selected these semi-puzzling results to feature in their graphic. But in the accompanying news report, not a word is said about the semi-puzzles lurking in the data they chose to feature.
We’re not saying they should have explained. Like Paul Reiser, we’re just saying.
In response to another question: 48 percent of respondents say they "understand how the law will affect" them and their family.
Saying this doesn't make it so. We've never been entirely clear on the purpose of such survey questions.