Bloomberg News is out with a new Selzer & Co. poll of 721 "likely voters." Several findings of the poll are pretty striking, but so are some of the ways in which the questions are framed. One question was introduced as follows: "The U.S. avoided what many experts said could have been a major economic collapse in 2008 and there are signs of recovery, though unemployment remains high and many people are still struggling. For each of the following people and institutions, I'd like you to tell me if you think they did more to help or more to hurt the U.S. economy. Just answer 'helped' or 'hurt.' If you don't know enough to answer, just say so."
As James Taranto likes to say, what would we do without "experts"? This is spin, in which policymakers who are significantly culpable for causing a financial crisis are instead, in Orwellian fashion, credited for avoiding "a major economic collapse." Even with the spin, the voting public isn't buying; 34% say Benjamin Bernanke "hurt," more than the 33% who say he "helped," and 40% say Timothy Geithner "hurt," more than the 23% who say he "helped."
Another striking result: Hillary Clinton, with 64% net favorable, polls higher than President Obama (53%), Sarah Palin (38%), the Democratic Party (47%), or Nancy Pelosi (34%).
President Obama hasn't been much more successful in building public support for the war in Afghanistan than President Bush was for the war in Iraq, with only 31% of likely voters saying America can win there, while 60% say "it is a lost cause." It is possible that among the 60% are some voters who wish America would win there but think it is a lost cause in part because of the commander in chief.
Finally comes the strange technique of polling people on elements of the health care bill. It was asked this way: "Here are some of the main provisions of the health care law. For each, please tell me if you think it should be kept or repealed." "Prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions" was one that 75% said should be kept and 24% said should be repealed. This is a provision that does have support across the political spectrum, as evidenced by the fact that even the House Republican campaign "pledge" includes it ("Health care should be accessible for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions or past illnesses. ...We will make it illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage to someone with prior coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition.") But it'd be interesting to poll on it as a cost question rather than as a something-for-nothing question: "How large an annual increase in your own family's health insurance premiums would you accept to help pay for the cost of requiring the health insurance companies to offer coverage to those without pre-existing conditions? $5,000 a year? $10,000 a year? $20,000 a year?"
The poll found a majority of people would like to repeal the provision requiring everyone to have health insurance, while keeping the prohibition on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Again, it's a something-for-nothing question — it seems like a lot of people don't want to have to pay for health insurance if they are healthy, but they want to be able to buy it if they get sick. I wonder if they polled auto insurance if they'd find people don't want to be required to buy that, either, but they want the auto insurance company to have to sell insurance to drivers who call on their cellphones mid-skid as they are about to crash.