A flood of national surveys show that Americans are divided about health care reform. Why?
Moving beyond vague, binary polling questions ("for or against reform"), Gallup’s latest survey actually asked people to back up their health care position with the reasons, in their own words, that they favor or oppose reform. The results are telling.
With a little data alchemy, statistician Nate Silver created a word cloud based on the "words that were used most frequently by the 45 percent of the country who would tell their Congressman to vote for the health care bill." The animating arguments are clear:
The message that the pro-reform voters have taken away comes through loudly and clearly: ‘PEOPLE … NEED … INSURANCE’… the moral arguments  seem to have broken through… Very few people have been persuaded by the discussions about bending the cost curve, on the other hand. Although the word ‘AFFORD’ is used more often by proponents of the legislation, terms like ‘COST’ and ‘MONEY’ are used far more often by those opposed to it.
The White House has focused far more on affordability and pre-existing conditions, however, to target audiences that have insurance. And Obama officials used to downplay overt moral appeals. That strategy might have been logical, given the districts and communities that were skeptical of reform. Yet Gallup’s findings suggest those arguments are not even sustaining the current reform constituency, let alone pushing it over 50 percent. "Supporters of healthcare legislation commonly cite a moral imperative as a reason for their support," explains Gallup’s report.
The most common "main reasons" – again, drawing on supporters’ own words – were concern for the uninsured and fixing a broken system, followed by controlling costs and a general "moral obligation" to provide health care. (Those three moral rationales, plus helping the poor, are driving 62 million people to support reform, while the cost constituency runs to another 17 million people.) And in the single instance when Obama’s team crowdsourced its health care message, in an online video contest, the winning submission was a moral plea about health care for children: