Exit Interviews on the Exit Poll

San Francisco State University history lecturer Steve Leikin, left, talks with a student at a university election rally in October. Leikin was working with the campaign against Proposition 32. Photo by Ian Hill/KQED.

Leading California pollsters are raising questions about the accuracy of the Edison Research exit poll (viewable on the CNN website) in terms of how big a share young voters — and non-white voters — comprised of all those casting ballots in California in last Tuesday’s election.

What’s not in dispute: Young voters and “ethnic voters” (which is to say Latinos, Asian-Americans and African-Americans) played an influential role in California’s big Democratic turnout… helping to pass Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax hike measure, and giving President Obama a 21 percentage point edge in the already-blue state.

As we reported last week, Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo cast doubt on the share of last Tuesday’s voters who were under 30. The Edison exit poll put 18-29 year olds at 27 percent of Californians who voted in this election. But 18-29 year olds make up just 16 percent of all registered voters in the state, said DiCamillo. And in 2008 exit polling showed this age group was 20 percent of California voters.

“I certainly believe that the story line of this elections the power of ethnic voters, and that younger voters turned out in high numbers,” DiCamillo said. “It has to do with the governor [specifically Gov. Brown’s campaign for Prop. 30] and online registration [which went into effect in September and has so far been used mostly by young Californians]…. But I can’t believe the 27 percent. That’s a huge number. To move the needle one full percentage point is a big thing, to move it seven or eight points is beyond credibility.” Continue reading

Berkeley Journalist Michael Lewis Profiles Barack Obama

Vanity Fair reporter Michael Lewis played basketball with the president during his six months of reporting. (Pete Souza: The White House)

Vanity Fair reporter Michael Lewis played basketball with the president during his six months of reporting. (Pete Souza: The White House)

It was a “flakey” idea, one almost certain to go nowhere.

“Someone should write a piece just trying to put the reader in the president’s shoes,” Berkeley journalist Michael Lewis told Terry Gross on Fresh Air this week. He was describing an email he had sent to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. He was requesting near-unprecedented access to President Obama. Lewis got a call the next day.

And much to his surprise, his pitch was accepted. Lewis, author of Moneyball and Liar’s Poker, observed the president over a period of six months last year — in meetings, on Air Force One, even on the basketball court — largely to learn about what it’s like to be president: what your day is like, what it’s like to make decisions a president must make — and how he makes them. Lewis’ article, Obama’s Way, appears in the October issue of Vanity Fair.

Lewis told Gross of many scenes from countless meetings, crises and travels. But his trip to Obama’s “favorite place” in the White House particularly resonates. As Lewis described it, you could almost imagine what it would be like to walk along with the President into his home: Continue reading

Health Care Reform… Is That What Government’s For?

Naval Medical Center, San Diego

Flickr/U.S. Navy photo, Todd Hack

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act June 28 has consumed lots of attention. Republicans are talking about repealing the act, while Democrats defended the law as “transformative of our society.” Why is it that this has become such a polarizing issue?

Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut, a veteran pollster, shared some insight, based on his public opinion surveys, in a wide-ranging conversation this week with PBS NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer:

“Instrumental to the dislike of this program is the mandate,” said Kohut, referring to polling last month that showed that Americans are divided on the Obama-backed health reform law but that a majority disapprove of the “individual mandate,” that requires individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or face a penalty. “What has been overwhelming is the reaction to the mandate in particular and the concern about the role of government.”

The role of government… in health care and so many other aspects of American life… has become a central point of debate this election year.

Take a look at this graph from the Gallup poll: A decade ago, roughly 6 in 10 people believed the federal government had a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage. Now just 5 in 10 think so.

Gallup health care survey 2000-2012

Gallup health care survey 2000-2012

Yet, the government’s role in ensuring health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act is a much smaller one than in other proposals Americans have debated in recent years.

Remember the “public option”…? That was the proposal for a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers as part of the health care overhaul. It was widely popular, according to a New York Times poll in 2009.

The national telephone survey, which was conducted from June 12 to 16, found that 72 percent of those questioned supported a government-administered insurance plan — something like Medicare for those under 65 — that would compete for customers with private insurers. Twenty percent said they were opposed.

But it didn’t pass muster in Congress and didn’t end up in the final version of the law.

Looking back a little further, Ezra Klein, writing in the New Yorker, reminds us that the “individual mandate” that conservatives now consider a government intrusion, actually began its life as a conservative idea.

The mandate made its political début in a 1989 Heritage Foundation brief titled “Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans,” as a counterpoint to the single-payer system and the employer mandate, which were favored in Democratic circles.

Here’s a link to that brief, by Stuart M. Butler with the conservative Heritage Foundation, which formed the basis for a Republican alternative to President Clinton’s plan for health care reform in the early 1990s.

A lot of Americans still don’t fully understand what the Affordable Care Act would do (or what the Supreme Court did last week). In fact, the New York Times reports, some of the politicians campaigning to repeal the law are actually proposing to replace it with… elements that are already in it.

A spokesman for Representative Rick Berg, Republican of North Dakota who is seeking a Senate seat, told a reporter in his state that Mr. Berg wants to replace Mr. Obama’s health care law with one that does not deny insurance coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and closes the “doughnut hole” — a gap in pharmaceutical coverage — for people on Medicare. Those are two of the most popular provisions of the law Mr. Berg would repeal, which would be difficult to replicate without the regulatory mandates and tax increases he has vowed to reverse.

So what IS in the law? For an easy overview, check out this animated video from the Kaiser Family Foundation. It was produced before the Supreme Court’s ruling (and has been viewed more than 400,000 times) but most of it still holds true:

And then let us know what you think: What IS the role of government in terms of health care?




Presidential Campaign Ads Fly but Californians Irked by Partisanship

We’re six months out and the 2012 presidential race is gearing up. President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney are moving into general election mode. And the Super PACs that support them — and can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money — are charging into the race.

The cash is flowing. The ads are flying. But what will voters take from it all?

The Obama campaign announced it would spend $25 million on ads just in the month of May. The first salvo is a strictly positive ad, touting the president’s hard work to dig the country out of the recession he inherited.

Meanwhile Americans For Prosperity, the conservative Super PAC, has unleashed its own anti-Obama ads, complete with allegations that American tax dollars meant for green job stimulus have been spent overseas.

Continue reading