Sunday, November 29th, 2009...1:59 pm

Polls Show Majority of Americans Favors Public Option

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As any social scientist knows, the responses you receive from survey participants depend in part on how you phrase the question.

The New York Times now reports (“Does the Public Care About the Public Option?” by Katharine Q. Seelye) on several surveys indicating that a majority of Americans favor the provision of government supported health insurance for those citizens with no other option. That’s a “public option”; just don’t call it “public option.” The majority of Americans supports the concept but doesn’t want the “public option.” You can understand their confusion; significant numbers of congressional representatives and senators are similarly confused.

House Republican minority leader John Boehner has indicated that he has never met or heard from anyone supporting a “public option.” He needs to get out of the tanning booth and onto the streets.

According to the Times:

It is only when surveys ask about individual elements of the legislation that the public option receives high marks.

For example, a nationwide Quinnipiac poll conducted shortly after the House passed its bill asked: “Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?” Fifty seven percent said they supported the option, while 35 were opposed.

CBS News found in August that if the word “Medicare” was part of the question — would respondents support a government-run plan “similar to Medicare, that people age 65 and older receive” — support jumped by 7 percent.

. . . 

Support soars if respondents are told that the plan would be limited mainly to those without insurance.

A mid-November poll by ABC News and The Washington Post found that 53 percent of people supported “having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans.” But support jumped to 72 percent when they were told that the public option would be limited to people who were not covered by their employers, Medicare or Medicaid.

. . . In early November, CBS News asked this question for a “60 Minutes”/Vanity Fair survey: “Could you confidently explain what exactly the public option is to someone who didn’t know?” Fully two-thirds of respondents said no. Only one-quarter said yes.

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