Taking data from our Public Option polling, Nate Silver determined that poverty levels and support for Barack Obama where the factors driving support for the Public Option. A few mathematical equations later, he projected support for the Public Option across all 435 congressional districts, and declared as a result that contrary to assertions, the Public Option would be popular in most Blue Dog districts.
The Blue Dogs have been fighting the good fight on behalf of the insurance companies, doing everything they can to stymie reform. When called to task for their anti-reform efforts, they hide behind their constituents, claiming they are simply representing the views of their constituents. We were curious -- was there any truth to these claims? As we've seen, in some places (like Nebraska), it's true, but in others, like in Jim Cooper's Tennessee district, it's not.
So could Nate's analysis be used to determine who was in the bag for the insurance industry, and who was representing their constituents? We set out to test Nate's hypothesis by asking voters in four Blue Dog districts what they thought. I chose Mike Ross in Arkansas 4, given his recent high-profile defection on the issue of the Public Option, apparently spooked by the teabaggers at his townhall meetings. I asked Nate to pick three other districts that would best test his hypothesis, and he chose Bart Stupak in MI-01, Henry Cuellar in TX-28, and John Barrow in GA-12.
We found that the Public Option enjoys support in these districts, quite strongly in three of them, and that in every single case, the popularity of the Public Option was higher than that of Barack Obama, suggesting that banking on Obama's personal popularity may be the wrong strategy in the places where the Public Option needs the most bolstering. Furthermore, we found that none of these four are on solid electoral footing, none have positive ratings on health care, and all would suffer electoral harm (to varying degrees) by opposing the Public Option.
|Do you favor or oppose creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance plans?||Arkansas 4||Favor: 47|
|Georgia 12||Favor: 51|
|Michigan 1||Favor: 53|
|Texas 28||Favor: 53|
|Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose Barack Obama's health care plan?||Arkansas 4||Favor: 40|
|Georgia 12||Favor: 46|
|Michigan 1||Favor: 46|
|Texas 28||Favor: 51|
The Public Option polls narrowly ahead, within the margin of error, in Arkansas 4. In the other three districts, it's a solid double-digit margin. Yet when asked whether respondents favor "Obama's health care plan", which includes a Public Option, people are less enthusiastic. Henry Cuellar's Texas 29, the only district to show majority support for "Obama's plan", is the only one of the four in which Obama maintains a positive favorability rating.
As much as these congressman claim they are representing their districts, none have favorable approval ratings on the issue of health care.
|Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of [local congressman]?||Mike Ross, AR-1||Favorable: 45|
|John Barrow, GA-12||Favorable: 43|
|Bart Stupak, MI-01||Favorable: 44|
|Henry Cuellar, TX-28||Favorable: 44|
|Do you approve or disapprove of [local Congressman's] actions on health care?||Mike Ross, AR-1||Favorable: 43|
|John Barrow, GA-12||Favorable: 42|
|Bart Stupak, MI-01||Favorable: 39|
|Henry Cuellar, TX-28||Favorable: 41|
Mike Ross is an anomaly with this crowd -- he receives plurality support on health care from Republicans (45-44) and Independents (43-42), within the margin of error of course, to balance out the 42-48 he gets from Democrats. The others all sport poor ratings from all political stripes. In general, Ross included, the Blue Dogs aren't going to be getting any parades back home as a result of their health care actions. They are uniformly woeful. And this could cost them in 2010:
|If the 2010 election for Congress were held today, would you definitely vote to reelect [local Congressman], would you consider voting for another candidate, or would you definitely vote to replace [local Congressman]?||Mike Ross, AR-1||Reelect: 41|
|John Barrow, GA-12||Reelect: 32|
|Bart Stupak, MI-01||Reelect: 35|
|Henry Cuellar, TX-28||Reelect: 39|
|If Mike Ross opposed a public health insurance option, would that make you more or less likely to vote for him or would it have no real effect on your vote?||Mike Ross, AR-1||More: 17|
No Effect 64
|John Barrow, GA-12||More: 12|
No Effect 64
|Bart Stupak, MI-01||More: 14|
No Effect 63
|Henry Cuellar, TX-28||More: 13|
No Effect 65
The "no effect" numbers suggest voting against the public option won't make much of a difference. But for a bunch of guys who always face the threat of a tight race, losing even a few percentage points could prove troublesome in 2010. But it's worse than that, because we can assume that most of these guys won't get much Republican support anyway, and Republicans should be extra energized next year. So these Blue Dogs will need every Democrat and Independent voter he can get. Here's how those voters will react to a potential "no" vote on the public option:
Democrats: 12% more likely to vote for him, 32% less
Independents: 14 more, 17 less
Democrats: 5 more, 39 less
Independents: 8 more, 21 less
Democrats: 6 more, 35 less
Independents: 11 more, 26 less
Democrats: 7 more, 35 less
Independents: 10 more, 22 less
These guys have made a career out of crapping on their Democratic base, but these numbers among Independents don't look so hot. This kind of slippage could be deadly. Republicans will certainly turn out. If Democrats and reform-minded Independents don't feel the incumbent is worth a trip to the polls, that kind of apathy could cost them their jobs.
I'll be digging into these numbers more over the next couple of days. Lots of great data to sort through, and lots of bullshit Blue Dog assumptions to shatter.
Oh, and how did Nate's projections of support for the Public Option match up to this polling? Remember there's margins of errors all around -- for this polling and for Nate's projections. It was a mixed bag:
Arkansas 4: Nate: 49-41, Poll: 47-44
Georgia 12: Nate: 69-25, Poll: 51-41
Michigan 01: Nate: 53-37, Poll: 53-42
Texas 28: Nate: 73-22 , Poll: 53-40
Arkansas 4 and Michigan 1 were only five points off, but he overestimated support by a significant number in Georgia 12 and Texas 29. It'll be interesting to see what he tweaks in his formula as a result of this additional data. The more information he has, the more he'll be able to fine tune his model.