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PolitiFact: Democrat reads too much into people saying health care bill doesn't 'go far enough'

The statement

A national poll found that among people who oppose the Democratic health care reform bill, "almost 40 percent" opposed it not because it goes too far, but because "they don't think it goes far enough. … They will not be unhappy when we pass health care reform."

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., in a speech on the House floor Wednesday

The ruling

"Madam Speaker," Yarmuth said, "every time I hear a Republican talking about health care reform, they say the American people don't want it. … But there's a national poll that shows what the real story is. They asked, of all the people who are opposed to health care or say they are, how many are opposed to it because they don't think it goes far enough. Forty percent. Almost 40 percent said that was the reason. They will not be unhappy when we pass health care reform."

Yarmuth's number struck us as surprisingly high. His staff said he was referring to a poll conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, a credible firm that works with a variety of media outlets, between Feb. 26 and Feb. 28, 2010. The pollsters contacted 1,076 voters, and the results had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.

They asked the following: "You said you are opposed to the health care reform proposals presently being discussed. Is that because you favor health care reform overall but think the current proposals don't go far enough to reform health care, or you oppose health care reform overall and think the current proposals go too far in reforming health care?"

All told, 37 percent of voters said that the current proposals "don't go far enough to reform health care." So Yarmuth's "almost 40 percent" is reasonably accurate. But there are some cautionary points worth noting:

• Forty percent is still a minority view among those who oppose the bill. The February Ipsos poll found that 54 percent of those opposed to the bill said it went too far.

• It's not clear what voters mean when they say the bill "doesn't go far enough." They may want the public option — a more liberal idea. Or they might prefer conservative ideas like malpractice reform. Other poll results on this complex topic have been similarly problematic.

Yarmuth did accurately cite a result from a legitimate poll. But due to variations in wording and the complexity of polling this issue, there's uncertainty about what that result means. It does not conclusively demonstrate that, as he put it, nearly 40 percent of voters "will not be unhappy when we pass health care reform." So we rate his statement Half True.

LOUIS JACOBSON, Times staff writer

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version — and to read other rulings — go to


PolitiFact: Democrat reads too much into people saying health care bill doesn't 'go far enough' 03/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 19, 2010 9:03pm]
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