Measuring the Impact of Michael Moore's SICKO

As I have mentioned here before, one of the studies I am working on evaluates the impact of documentary film across audiences, news coverage, and policy contexts. I have written short introductions or columns on this topic in the past with a focus on Inconvenient Truth. While searching around for additional data, I ran across this survey report from Kaiser on the impact of Michael Moore's SICKO.

If the potential impact of Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko" were dependent solely on those who have actually seen the film, the result might be a passionate but narrow conversation among the 4% of adults who said they watched it in a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

But, with a big free media bounce reaching beyond the movie reviews to the news and talk shows, the new poll finds that almost half (46%) had seen the movie or heard or read something about it a little over a month after its national release. This is not much less than the share of adults (61%) who were aware of "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary on climate change featuring former Vice President Al Gore released in May 2006.

Among those familiar with "Sicko," 45% said they had a discussion with friends, co-workers, or family about the U.S. health system as a result of the movie; 43% said they were more likely to think there is a need to reform the health system; 37% were more likely to think other countries have a better approach to health care; and 27% said they were paying more attention to the positions of presidential candidates on health care. About equal numbers of those aware of the movie thought it accurately represents problems in the U.S. health system (36%) versus overstating them (33%), and positive impressions of "Sicko" outweighed negative ones 48% to 33%.

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Matt, do you see Sicko as a good example of persuasive media? If so, is its polemical nature (e.g., trying to get health care for veterans in Cuba) a help or hindrance to its message?

I wonder why only 37% were more likely to think other countries have better health care after Moore presents France, Canada, Britain and Cuba as offering universal free health care. What would it take to raise that percentage? Isn't it obvious that other countries are doing a better job?

I wonder why only 37% were more likely to think other countries have better health care

Because many respondents already thought this was the case, before they saw the movie? Survey questions are funny things, and have to be carefully worded.

I was searching for information on the Australian Health Care system a while back, and came across this article:

Here's what was interesting:

On the third day, the leader of the US team said, The difference between us is that you guys believe in equity and we dont. In the US, people are less interested in making sure everyone gets care than that those who can get it get great care. They accept not getting care now if they can see the opportunity to improve their position and succeed, so that, when they get the money, they will be able to buy great care the minute they want it. It is all about opportunity. People in the US want opportunity, not equity. Thats what they think is fair.

That strikes me as a perfect definition of the free market philosophy. I wonder what the ratio of those definitions are in the US populace compared to the rest of the world.