Mellman: Just how important are the issues?

Mellman: Just how important are the issues?

Many commentators reported perplexity. How could Democratic primary voters be endorsing Bernie Sanders ’s policy proposals by large margins, but casting ballots for Joe Biden ? Answers fall into at least two categories, both with broader implications. First, a single poll question on a complex topic rarely reveals a complete portrait of public opinion. Second, issues rarely decide elections. The apparent contradiction came into boldest relief on Super Tuesday when voters in exit polls supported Sanders’s marquee issue — “replacing all private health insurance with a single government plan for everyone” — by a 17-point margin. Yet, Joe Biden won those same states by an average of 9 points. The exit pollsters’ question offered a clear, up-or-down choice on the Sanders plan, but didn’t reflect the real debate. The former vice president was not simply opposed to Sanders’s approach, he offered his own, adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act, among other reforms. A New York Times poll found 58 percent of Democrats preferred a government-run public plan alongside private plans — as per Biden — while just 25 percent wanted a Sanders-like, single government plan for all and 15 percent preferred no government plan at all. It’s quite possible, for voters to support “replacing all private health insurance with a single government plan for everyone” over the implicit choice — doing nothing — while preferring a public option to a government-only plan. However, the point at issue goes deeper than just poll questions. Despite the fairy […]

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