A rose by any other name…

There seems to be an active campaign among defenders of the Affordable Care Act to promote the idea the law is only unpopular because people have been tricked into not liking the term “Obamacare.” While the data shows this isn’t true, it hasn’t stopped individuals from heavily distorting the results of polling data to try to spin this myth.

Take for example this misleading story from NBC News, In Polling Obamacare, A Label Makes A Big Difference and this one from Vox, Kentuckians only hate Obamacare if you call it Obamacare.

They both jump to the conclusion that simply using a different name has a huge effect, even though that is not what the poll actually tested. The justification is that Kynect, the name of the Kentucky exchange, polls better than Obamacare. From the NBC story:

By comparison, when Kentucky voters were asked to give their impression of “kynect,” the state exchange created as a result of the health care law, the picture was quite different.

A plurality – 29 percent – said they have a favorable impression of kynect, compared to 22 percent who said they view the system unfavorably. Twenty-seven percent said they hadn’t heard of kynect, and an additional 21 percent said they were unsure.

“Call it something else, and the negatives drop,” said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff

The problem is that the term Obamacare and Kynect are not at all interchangeable. Kynect is really only a small part of the overall law. It is very possible someone could have a favorable opinion of the exchange and still disapprove of the law because they strongly oppose its tax, drug patent, or Medicare provisions.

After all, the exchanges were always a relatively uncontroversial aspect of the law. They were not the part Republicans mainly attacked. It shouldn’t be surprising that an exchange would poll better than the overall law. This poll doesn’t at all prove that “Kentuckians only hate Obamacare if you call it Obamacare” or that a “label makes a big difference.” It simply shows one aspect of the law polls better than the whole law, but that is true about any large law with many provisions.

Whether a poll calls it Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law, or health care reform, when they ask about the entire law the polling has actually been fairly consistent.

Photo by Steve Wilson under Creative Commons license