The accompanying opinion piece is by Nate Silver, Andrew Gelman, and Daniel Lee. Say the authors:
Using a statistical method called multilevel regression and post-stratification, we ... mapped opinion on health care, breaking down voters by age, family income and state. We’re used to thinking about red states and blue states, but the geographic variation is dwarfed by the demographic patterns: younger, lower-income Americans strongly support increased government spending on health care, while elderly and well-off Americans are much less supportive of the idea. But in general, senators seems to be less interested in what their constituents, old and young, rich and poor, might think about health care, and more interested in how they feel about President Obama.Support for Obama seems to be driving attitudes about health care reform to some extent, and not the other way around. Of course, a lot of what this has to do with is trust. As Machiavelli said, reform is hard: vested interests who benefit from the status quo will oppose it at every turn, and they tend to be well-organized, while support for reform tends to be diffuse and shallow. Whether you're going to support a large intervention in a system that, for all its shortcomings, is our system - the one most of us have grown accustomed to - will depend in large part on whether you trust the folks who are doing the reforming. And of course, if you're already a beneficiary of guaranteed government-provided health care, like everyone in the US over the age of 65, you really don't have much incentive to support reform; unless, that is, you aren't entirely self-interested, and actually care about, for instance, the ability of young people to acquire health care when they're in their 20s and don't have access to the kind of job stability that's necessary to acquire employer-based health insurance; or who can't get health care in the free market because of a pre-existing condition like asthma; or are just too poor to afford quality health care.
This may actually be good news for the Democrats. Although the Annenberg surveys had shown health care subsidies to be quite popular — they had 67 percent support nationally in 2000 and 73 percent support in 2004 — that was back when they were a mere abstraction, and before voters might have been considering how to pay for them. Nowadays, President Obama enjoys higher approval ratings — in the low to mid-50s, according to most polls — than do the Democrats’ health care reform plans, which are mired in the mid-40s in most surveys. Conditions being what they are, Democrats would rather have a referendum on the president than one on the health care bill itself.
But of course the maps show a geographical dimension too. Support tends to be lower in Republicaan-leaning regions like the Plains and the Utah-Idaho-Wyoming triad of conservative Western states; it tends to be higher in the Northeast and Great Lakes states. (By the way, when and why did Wisconsin become more liberal than Minnesota?) What will be interesting to me is to see how support shifts once a bill is actually passed. My guess is that support will increase across the board, once there are a bunch of headlines about Obama signing "historic leegislation" and all that. On the other hand, I wouldn't put it past Congress to end up with such a watered-down bill, with so many sops to the health insurance and health care industries, that it just pisses everyone off.