NY Times' 'Serious' Polling Problem Pushes National Health Care

     Would you say The New York Times has a very serious reporting problem; a somewhat serious reporting problem, or that its problem is not very serious at all?

     Any way you answer that question, The New York Times has a reporting problem. The problem is bias toward national tax-funded health care, and it was evident in coverage of the latest Times poll – which left out the fact that respondents thought a government-mandated health plan was “unfair” and that government would be an inefficient service provider.

     According to the March 2 New York Times, a majority of Americans support federally guaranteed health insurance for all Americans and show “a striking willingness” to pay more taxes to reach that goal. But that was only a partial result of a poll that was worded with biased questions.

     Citing the recent New York Times/CBS News poll of 1,281 adults, the front-page story left out many responses, just as the poll itself left out any other options.

▪ Loaded Questions


The poll questions were loaded in favor of universal coverage plans, and with one question it just took one word: serious.

One of the most loaded questions asked, “How serious a problem is it for the U.S. that many Americans do not have health insurance – very serious, somewhat serious, not too serious, or not at all serious?” Not surprisingly, 70 percent of respondents chose “very serious.”

No matter what, the question assumed the number of uninsured was a huge problem. In fact, the basis for the article was the number of uninsured Americans. The Times stated that more than 15 percent of the U.S. population is uninsured, but the Times did not report that “only about 30 percent of the uninsured Americans have been uninsured for a full year. In fact nearly 45 percent will regain insurance within four months,” according to testimony before Congress given by Michael Tanner, the Cato Institute’s Director of Health & Welfare Studies.

Selective Reporting

The Times left out a key response that didn’t mesh well with its premise. A full 48 percent of respondents said it would be “unfair” for the government to require participation in a national health care plan funded by taxpayers, compared to the 43 percent who said it would be fair.

More people also said government would do a worse job than private insurance companies in providing medical coverage. But the Times left out that 44-percent response, compared to 30 percent who thought the government would be better.

Only Liberal Options Given

Another question provided only two options: “one health insurance program covering all Americans that would be administered by the government and paid for by taxpayers” or “keeping the current system where many people get their insurance from private employers and some have no insurance.”

That one-sided question left no room for support of free-market reforms to the health care industry. For example, the poll never asked people whether they would like more control over their own health decisions, rather than having their employer or union choosing health coverage for them.

     Poll respondents contradicted themselves several times. While 64 percent agreed that the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans – and 48 percent of those people still agreed if it would result in higher insurance costs for themselves – 52 percent were “very concerned” about health care costs in the coming years. Higher taxes certainly wouldn’t do much to help their concerns.

     The Business & Media Institute pointed out the media’s preferential treatment of universal coverage plans in a January 2007 article entitled Health Care Face-Off.

The Media Research Center’s TimesWatch also covered the Times story here.