It's getting a little tiring writing this over and over, but a new poll shows that a majority of Americans want a public option. This time, a Washington Post-ABC News Poll shows support for the public option, only this one comes with a couple of twists -- respondents preferred a strong public option to a weak one and preferred a partisan public option over a bipartisan bill without one.
On the public option, respondents were asked, "Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?" 57% supported it and 40% opposed. When the public option was weakened -- "What if this government-sponsored plan was run by state governments and was available only to people who did not have a choice of affordable private insurance? In that case would you support or oppose this idea?" -- it got a whole lot less popular. 45% supported and 49% opposed.
And on the bipartisanship question, I think people are starting to get it. Yes, bipartisanship is nice, but not if you have to sacrifice results:
Which of these would you prefer –- (a plan that includes some form of government-sponsored health insurance for people who can’t get affordable private insurance, but is approved without support from Republicans in Congress); or
(a plan that is approved with support from Republicans in Congress, but does not include any form of government-sponsored health insurance for people who can’t get affordable private insurance)?
The bill without GOP support pulls a bare majority of 51%, but the bipartisan bill is much less popular with only 37% supporting bipartisanship at all costs.
Part of the GOP's problem here comes in the demographic questions toward the end of the poll -- only 20% of respondents identified themselves as Republican. Which also explains why Republicans rate pretty low on the issue of trust.
Poll respondents are evenly divided when asked whether they have confidence in Obama to make the right decisions for the country's future, but just 19 percent express confidence in the Republicans in Congress to do so. Even among Republicans, only 40 percent express confidence in the GOP congressional leadership to make good choices.
The paper points out that the percentage identifying as Republican is "the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983." This kind of blows a hole in the hypothesis that Republicans are in for a big year in 2010.
The wide gap in partisan leanings and the lack of confidence in the GOP carries into early assessments of the November 2010 midterm elections: Fifty-one percent say they would back the Democratic candidate in their congressional district if the elections were held now, while 39 percent would vote for the Republican. Independents split 45 percent for the Democrat, 41 percent for the Republican.
And, on the issue of healthcare, Republicans have rendered themselves completely irrelevant by offering absolutely zero of substance. The GOP has become a party of protesters and, as a result, are completely negative. Had they come out with even a lousy competing plan, they'd probably be in a better position right now. And it's a little late to introduce one now, with the train finally pulling up to the station.
It's not all sunshine for Democrats, though. While Obama has a pretty healthy rating of 57%, the approval of his leadership on healthcare reform is the only issue where he doesn't have the majority percentage -- he scores 48%. And, asked if they opposed or supported healthcare reform as it seems to be now, 45% supported it and 48% opposed. Here's hoping that's a hangover from the seriously awful Baucus Senate Finance Committee bill, which was the last piece of reform legislation to get any press. On all the details, the public is supportive of the most progressive reform proposals.
The public will soon get the taste of the Baucus bill out of their mouths, with the final House and Senate versions being banged out. Not only is one guaranteed to have a public option, but the plan is to make it cheaper than a bill without one.
[Talking Points Memo:]
The House health care bill is getting cheaper, but Democrats aren't boasting just yet. Because when they ultimately break silence the hope is to present conservative Democrats in both chambers with a bill that will walk the walk of fiscal responsibility -- including a public option, which is projected to save the government billions.
The Senate Finance Committee bill clocks in at about $829 billion in new spending--an extremely low number for a project so ambitious -- and it has the added bonus, in a legislature that fetishizes fiscal responsibility, of being a deficit reducer. But even if the House can't get it's final health care package below that mark, it may still be able to make quite a splash when official CBO numbers are released in the weeks ahead. The ideal scenario is a House bill that's cheaper in absolute terms than the final Senate bill, without gutting subsidies. But at the very least the House bill will cover more people than the Senate bill, at a comparable price, providing the government more bang for its health care buck.
At this point, it looks like a bill with a public option is a pretty good bet.
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