Rep. Peter King (R-NY): Health Care “Not A Major Issue”

August 3, 2009 12:31 p.m.

Rep. Peter King made an interesting declaration today on MSNBC — that health care is “not a major issue,” and that people are not concerned about it as a top issue:

Democrats were quick to pounce. “This latest display of Peter King’s erratic behavior proves that he is out of touch with his constituents and the American people,” said Shripal Shah, Northeast Regional Press Secretary for the DCCC. “Everyone but Peter King seems to recognize the need to bring down the cost of health insurance. It’s time for him to get his head out of the sand and live up to his responsibilities to his constituents by working for health insurance reform that will lower costs and increase access to care.”

So is King right, or the DCCC? As it turns out, it’s all a matter of what poll you cite — and what exactly they were asking. The bottom line is that health very much is an important issue — but because the economy is so rotten right now, people will more likely list that as the most important issue.King said that only 14% of Americans in a new poll say health care is the number one priority. He would appear to be referring to the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which does indeed give that figure. But pay close attention to the question — it asks people about the number one priority, and it so happens that jobs are the number-one issue in this economy, way out front with 38%.

When combining first and second priorities, health care is at 32%, with the economy’s combined scores at 62%. This puts them both well ahead of such other issues as national security and terrorism, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and energy prices — and nobody would argue that those aren’t also major issues.

The DCCC responded to King by citing a recent Time poll, in which 69% of Americans said it is important for President Obama and Congress to pass a health care bill in the next few months.

The sleight-of-hand is to say that health care is “not a major issue” because it doesn’t rank at the very top of people’s concerns. In this economy, there’s some pretty stiff competition to be the number-one concern on people’s minds.

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