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Listen to the Polls


Yesterday's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has both good news and bad news for health reform. Public opinion is mixed on "Barack Obama's plan" (odd, as Barack Obama doesn't currently have a plan). About a third think it's a good idea. About a third think it's a bad idea. About a third don't know. That suggests that we're still early enough in the process that the bulk of people with opinions are the partisans who didn't need to actually form one. Indeed, a few questions later, the pollsters describe the plan in more detail, and support shoots to 55 percent, but opposition barely budges.

But make no mistake: There are elements of health reform that are important, but will be sharply unpopular. Almost 60 percent, for instance, oppose efforts to tax generous health care benefits. I'd guess that when people hear about penalties in the individual mandate, that policy will prove controversial too. Luckily, there are some elements of health reform that meet with overwhelming public approval. Among them is the public plan. According to the poll, 76 percent of Americans believe it's either "extremely important" or "quite important" to "give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance."

Much in health reform is unpopular. The choice of a public insurance option isn't. And given the many hard and controversial choices that will need to be made to achieve health reform, it's not clear to me that the Democrats can afford to lightly remove the genuinely popular aspects of the legislation.

By Ezra Klein  |  June 19, 2009; 9:45 AM ET
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I wonder if when people say they want the public option, what they really mean is that they want plans that are community rated and do not exclude or rate for pre-existing conditions. If private insurance companies are required to actually insure everyone at "reasonable" rates is there really the necessity for a public plan?

Posted by: izzydc | June 19, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

No public option and the progressives stay home or even go the war on any bill. I know of many single payer advocates. I know many public option advocates (or single payer people who would be enough happy with it)

I have yet to meet a grassroots advocate who will spend time and money campaignin for small reform and small subsidies.

Posted by: JonWa | June 19, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

The public option polled at 83% in this poll here:


Posted by: SteveCA1 | June 19, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Wait - so if Obama doesn't currently have a plan, then does that mean the opinions expressed int he poll are more just public attitudes towards various potential aspects of healthcare reform? The people being polled were asked how they felt about hypothetical (but likely) parts of "Obama's plan"?

Posted by: gadfly3 | June 19, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Notice that the poll did not ask if one preferred a universal government run plan like Medicare or one based on private insurance.
The Post - ABC poll (10/2003) did and it was 62% to 33% in favor of Medicare for All.

I betcha it would even be higher now in spite of the media (Post included) suppressing the facts.

Posted by: lensch | June 19, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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