Poll: Public Split On Health Care, Heavily In Favor Of Public Option

November 17, 2009 5:07 a.m.

The new ABC/Washington Post poll finds Democrats in a tricky the public divided on health care reform as it now stands — but some internal numbers find potential for Democrats to break through, with no clear Republican alternatives in sight.

The poll found 48% of respondents in favor, and 49% against, the health care proposals current being developed by Congress and the Obama administration. In addition, opponents were more intense, with 39% strongly against and 10% only somewhat against, compared to 30% strongly in favor and 18% somewhat in favor.

In addition, 52% expect their own personal health care costs to increase if the bill is passed, and 56% expect the country’s overall costs to increase.

However, respondents were also asked: “Do you think leaders of the Republican Party are mainly presenting alternatives to
Obama’s proposals, or mainly criticizing Obama’s alternatives?” In this case, only 31% said the Republicans were presenting alternatives, with 61% saying they were mainly criticizing Obama.In addition, 50% said they trusted Obama more than the Republicans to do a better job on health care, compared to only 37% who trusted the Republicans over Obama.

A key number is on support for the public option. The poll found that 53% are in favor and 43% against. When those who were initially against it or were undecided were then asked about a more limited option that would only be available to people who currently don’t have insurance — that is, a description of the public option that was passed in the House bill — 40% of them then approved. This caused the total approval for a limited public option to rise up to 72%-28%.

Another question on the public option also found that 60% of people believe it’s at least somewhat likely that private insurance companies would go out of business if the public option is passed, due to an inability to compete with the government, to only 38% who don’t think it’s likely. It’s interesting to consider that number, compared to the public being in favor of the public option — mathematically, there is at least some overlap of people who think the insurance companies might go out of business, and that this would be a good thing.

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