How Opponents Won The Health Care Messaging War

Jun 19, 2012

OK, so it's not exactly news that the Obama administration hasn't done the best job in the world selling the Affordable Care Act to the American public.

But now the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism has some statistics to demonstrate just how sorry that job has been. And it suggests that the media gets at least some of the blame.

It seems that during the pivotal period during which the legislation was being crafted (and the public was forming an opinion), from June 1, 2009, through March 31, 2010, nearly half the media coverage (49 percent) "focused on politics and strategy as well as the legislative process." How much focused on what the measure would actually do? Just 23 percent.

The study also measured how often media reports mentioned terms used by opponents of the bill, such as "government-run," or "rationing health care," compared to those used by supporters, such as "pre-existing conditions" or "more competition." It found that terms used by opponents "were far more present in media reports than terms associated with arguments supporting the bill."

Despite the success of opponents in messaging, however, the public remains largely split over the law, with most polls showing a majority of Democrats supporting it, and a somewhat larger majority of Republicans opposing it.

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