Quentin Kidd: Response to Emmett Hanger on Medicaid

kiddDear Senator Hanger,

Thank you for the e-mail concerning the most recent survey I conducted. As I read it, you raise two primary issues, and I’d like to respond to each of your concerns, and then address another issue related to ethics.

First, while certainly not desiring to take anything away from your leadership on Medicaid expansion, the positions in the General Assembly on this issue overwhelmingly fall along party lines. In framing the question, I wanted to make the contours of the debate clear to respondents, and so that is why I identified the Democratic position and the Republican position in the set-up. It is, simply speaking, the Democratic position to expand in some way and the Republican position not to, at this point. That was the simple goal of including the party identifiers in the question.

Second, in constructing this specific survey question I attempted to provide the basic position of each side, recognizing that the explanations have to be short and to the point in order not to lose respondents.

For the Democratic side, that position is to “subsidize private insurance for 400,000 uninsured and low income Virginians by using federal Medicaid money that would otherwise not come to Virginia.” That statement includes what they want to do [provide subsidized private insurance] and why they want to do it [to cover 400,00 uninsured and low income Virginians and to get money that would otherwise not come to Virginia].

For the Republican side, the position is to “oppose this expansion because they fear the federal Medicaid money will not come as promised, and also say the current Medicaid program has too much waste and abuse and needs reformed before it is expanded.” That statement includes what they want to do [oppose] and why they take that position [fears that federal money won’t come and claims of waste and abuse].  I feel comfortable that I provided an honest position and explanation for each side.

I agree with you that our most recent survey matches up well with public opinion from our January survey on the particular aspect of whether Virginians would still be supportive if federal monies were not available. I pointed out in my analysis of the current results that very similarity between the January survey and this most recent survey, and argued that Democrats seem to be losing the debate to Republicans in part due to the questions Republicans are raising.

While I am certain you did not mean anything personal by it, please allow me to address the questions you raised about my ethics. I am a professor at a public university in Virginia. My career and reputation is built upon the integrity of my work. I’ve published a lot of research in highly respected peer reviewed academic journals, and written or edited five books. I’ve also conducted a lot of surveys. The survey work I do is important to me, and the integrity and ethics of that work is also very important to me. My goal is to inform the public debate and to bring the public’s view into the debate, as much as possible. My personal position on any given issue is irrelevant to this work. I may not always write the perfect question (who does), and I certainly make mistakes (as we all do), but I have never and will never engage in push polling (whether subtle or not so subtle) or purposefully disseminate misinformation. To do either of those things would be counter to everything I stand for.

I would very much welcome you on campus. While I hope this debate is not still going on this fall, if it is then I would gladly host a presentation or debate. If it has been settled by then, perhaps a different topic would be more pertinent.

Finally, let me close by thanking you for your service to the Commonwealth. You (and all members of the General Assembly) have a difficult job making important decisions for us all, and I very much appreciate what you do and the sacrifices you make in doing it.


quentin kidd is the director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.


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