Members of Congress of both parties are talking again about health care. The House of Representatives made a vote to repeal "Obamacare" its first legislative agenda item for the new Congress. They said it was what they were elected to do.
But are the American people talking about health care too? Not particularly, according to the most recent word of mouth tracking by my firm.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, a period that included the run up to the election as well as the Lame Duck Congress that followed, we were measuring daily the major issues about which the American people were talking, either offline or online. "Health insurance and the health care system" ranked 10th out of 17 areas tracked during this period. Economic issues dominated the list – topics such as people's concern about their financial situation, ways to cut back on expenses, looking for a job or worrying about losing one. Education and energy costs also were discussed more frequently than health care.
This is a very different situation than the summer of 2009, with the heated debate in Congress, followed by the town hall meetings during the August Congressional recess, when we saw a major run up in consumer conversation. At that time, health care was talked about almost as frequently as the economy. Indeed, during two weeks in September 2009 it was a close second to financial concerns for issues being talked about. We saw another mini-spike in March 2010, when the legislation passed the Senate and the House of Representatives, and was signed into law by the President.
But talk about health care began to drop sharply after it passed in Congress and was signed into law by the President. It has shown no real signs of rebounding. The only demographic group for which it is truly a top tier topic of conversation is the 60+ and retired segment. Meanwhile, the issue that continues to dominate the American people's day to day conversations is concern about their own financial situation and other economic matters.
These findings give credence to the view that this issue was brought to the House floor to satisfy the core constituency of the new Republican majority, not really because it's "what everyone is talking about." The talk on Main Street remains focused squarely on the economy.
Ed Keller, CEO of the Keller Fay Group, has been called "one of the most recognized names in word of mouth." The publication of Keller's book, The Influentials, has been called the "seminal moment in the development of word of mouth." Ed can be contacted at email@example.com.
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