GOP Pollster Finds Political Parallels to 1994 on Health Care

Posted August 27, 2009 at 11:35am

Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies released a new poll Thursday suggesting parallels between opposition to former President Bill Clinton’s failed health care plan and the opposition to President Barack Obama’s plan this year.

In polls taken by the firm in June 1994 and August 2009, about a quarter of those surveyed supported the reform efforts and more than a third opposed them.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,— McInturff told reporters.

McInturff, who polled for the effective “Harry and Louise— television commercials that the insurance industry ran during the Clinton-era debate, counts insurance companies, hospitals, doctors and other interest groups following the health care debate among his clients now. He said Obama will ultimately have to trade away the public insurance option to pass a bill — if he can get liberals to go along with such a bill.

“The president has spent weeks trying to move these numbers, and they’ve gotten worse,— he said at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “There’s no way they’re going to pass a public option.—

The public option has undermined Obama’s campaign message that voters will be able to keep the insurance they have if they like it, McInturff said, with voters in the South and swing constituencies turning against the plan. Seniors are also worried about the potential for cuts to Medicare to pay for expanded coverage for those who don’t have it now.

“They have the world’s best health care deal,— McInturff said of seniors, and they don’t want to give it up.

McInturff also recommended that Republicans lay low while Democrats fight among themselves. “When your opposition is having trouble, you should stay out of the story,— he said.

McInturff’s polling did find one bright spot for Obama — he has higher approval ratings and remains personally popular, but also has a larger percentage strongly opposed to him than Clinton did in 1994.