Just 12% Support the Health Care bill on OpenCongress - What Does it Mean?August 3, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
- “Poll Shows Obama’s Clout on Health Care is Eroding” (New York Times, 7/29/09)
- “Support Slips for Health Plan” (Wall Street Journal, 7/30/09)
These are typical of the headlines we’ve been seeing recently as members of the House leave Washington for their month-long recess with a health care vote looming as soon as they return. Putting aside some of the quirks of the polls – Obama doesn’t have a health care plan, it’s Congress’ through and through – these polls reflect a growing trend of unease about elements of the health care proposals in Congress.
But on OpenCongress approval for the House’s health care bill is absurdly low. Out of the approximately 1,250 people that have cast their vote on the site, just 12 percent voted in favor of the bill. Eighty-eight percent voted against it. The reason is simple: unlike a good poll, the OpenCongress vote count doesn’t represent a cross-section of Americans. People come to the site voluntarily to cast their vote – there’s no random sampling involved.
So, what is the vote count on OpenCongress worth? I think it gives us a sense of the energy behind the drive for health care reform a la the Democrats’ bill as well as the energy behind the opposition to the bill. More specifically, it shows us that people opposing the Democrats’ health care reform bill are much more active than the supporters. For this unscientific analysis – with actual public support is split about 50/50 – the 12 percent approval rating on OpenCongress indicates that the opposition is about four times more energized than the support.
This is especially important right now because members of Congress will be in their districts for the entire month of August to touch base with their constituents about what’s going on in Congress. You can bet that health care reform is going to overshadow just about every issue. Pundits and political activists have already declared the August recess the make-or-break moment for Congress’ push to reform health care. If persuadable members of Congress come back from recess with the impression that the majority of the people in their district oppose the health care bill, they are going to be more likely to vote against it.
So, we know that opponents to the health care bill are more likely to cast their vote on a website, but are they also more likely to make their voice heard at town halls and other events with members of Congress this month? So far, it does seems like the OpenCongress vote count is a fairly good representation of where the August energy is on health care. Below are a couple videos from district meetings last weekend with Rep. Lloyd Doggett [D, TX-25] and Sen. Arlen Specter [D, PA]where health care reform opponents overwhelmed supporters: