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Knowledgeable misinformation on reform

National Partisan Debate Elbows in on California

By David Gorn
California Healthline
April 5, 2011

A Field Poll on attitudes toward health care reform in California had some interesting results -- including a much more positive feeling about reform among Californians than is found in national polls.

One of the main results this year and last, according to Field pollster Mark DiCamillo, is that opinions on health care are highly partisan.

"The data were very partisan last year, and the reality of the data is, we haven't had that much of a change since then. The amount of knowledge people have about reform is not greater than last year, but there's so much heat on this issue, so much of a partisan divide -- it's here, it has been here and I don’t expect it to go away anytime soon."

That partisan element has not only influenced opinions, he said, but has reinforced factual misconceptions, as well. "The dissonance that's going on is just amazing to me," DiCamillo said. "The predispositions people have about health care are coloring what's going on in reality."

For instance, he said, 36% of Californians believe that undocumented residents will be better off from the health care reform law, despite the fact that the law specifically excludes undocumented residents from participating.

"We actually see the highest degree of confusion among people who say they have more knowledge [about health care reform issues]," DiCamillo said. "That's consistent with Tea Party voters and Republicans," he said, "and they're also more likely to believe that illegal immigrants will benefit. So that self-reported knowledge, you have to take it with a grain of salt."

http://www.californiahealthline.org/capitol-desk/2011/4/secretary-dooley-on-partisan-politics-poll.aspx

And...

California Voters Remain Supportive of Health Care Law

By Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field
The Field Poll
April 4, 2011

Table 2b
Opinions of the health care law by stated level of knowledge about the law

Oppose
57% - Very knowledgeable
39% - Somewhat knowledgeable
29% - Not too/not at all knowledgeable

Support
41% - Very Knowledgeable
56% - Somewhat knowledgeable
50% - Not too/not at all knowledgeable

Table 3b
Opinions of the health care law by media source
TV news source

Oppose
35% - CNN
73% - Fox News
37% - NBC
33% - ABC
31% - MSNBC
36% - CBS
14% - Univision/Telemundo
34% - Other TV/Local news

Support
56% - CNN
22% - Fox News
52% - NBC
55% - ABC
63% - MSNBC
51% - CBS
66% - Univision/Telemundo
52% - Other TV/Local News

http://www.field.com/fieldpollonline/subscribers/Rls2374.pdf

Comment: 

By Don McCanne, MD

Those of us who are quite knowledgeable about health policy are often astounded by not only the amount of misinformation about health reform, but also by the self-confidence of those who are often the least well informed. This new California Field Poll provides some interesting observations in this regard.

As Field pollster Mark DiCamillo explains, 36% of Californians believe that undocumented residents will be better off from the health care reform law even though that is untrue and is spelled out in the law, and yet, "We actually see the highest degree of confusion among people who say they have more knowledge [about health care reform issues]," and "That's consistent with Tea Party voters and Republicans." The poll numbers confirm that those who oppose the Affordable Care Act claim to be more knowledgeable about the law whereas those who support it do not have the same level of confidence in their knowledge.

Look at the sources of their information. For those who oppose the law, many more rely on Fox News and not on the other television news sources. In contrast, those who support the law do not rely on Fox News but are fairly evenly distributed amongst the networks and CNN, with greater dependency on MSNBC and Univision/Telemundo. Considering the large Hispanic population in California, the last observation is particularly relevant.

In a land that values free speech so highly and has an abundance of information resources, how did we end up with such a large sector of our population so heavily reliant on a source so lacking in credibility? Even more perplexing, why do they rigidly insist that they are highly knowledgeable and that our very credible, well documented facts are wrong even when all of the objective data is presented to them? Is it just that these people are incapable of critical thinking, or is it that Fox News has discovered the secret of mass mesmerization? Either way, it's scary.