Poll finds a majority for ‘public option’

October 20, 2009

Americans are still sharply divided over President Barack Obama’s vision of healthcare overhaul, but they’re starting to come around  — again —  on the so-called public option, so says a new Washington Post/ABC News poll published on Monday.


Fifty-seven percent of all Americans now favor a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers while 40 percent are opposed, according to the poll.

That’s up from 52 percent support in mid-August, but still down from 62 percent in June.

What’s happened since the congressional summer recess  when anger over the prospect of a public option  heated town hall meetings across the country?

The public option (a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers) is still favored by Obama and liberal Democrats as a way to increase competition and cut rising costs.

There’s still plenty of opposition from Republicans and other critics who argue that a public option  would be a government takeover and could drive private insurance companies out of business.

In the Senate,  lawmakers are trying to craft a single healthcare bill out of two separate proposals — one with the public option and one without. All three pending House bills include a public option.

Some numbers from the Washington Post/ABC poll:
– 57 percent of Americans now favor a public insurance option, 40 percent are opposed
– 56 percent favor a provision mandating all Americans to buy insurance
– 45 percent favor the broad outlines of the proposals now moving in Congress, 48 percent are opposed
–  seven in 10 Democrats back the plan,  almost nine in 10 Republicans oppose it
– 52 percent of Independents are against proposed reforms, 42 percent are in favor

For more Reuters political coverage click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Hyungwon Kang; Reuters/Jonathan Ernst  ( Pharmacist Sonya Safaie at work in Great Falls, Virginia; /Copy of House healthcare bill HR 3200 )


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OK, a poll from the Washinton Post and ABC News and you would expect us to believe it. Example of a question: If a public option were the only means of being treated for a life threatening illness would you participate in the plan? I am still surprised at the outcome, 40% would still not opt of a public health plan.

Posted by DougD | Report as abusive

It’s a shame that this poll is not widely reported news–and that even in this telling, it is intensely mitigated.

For example…
1) The article asked what’s changed since August–and then provides no answer. One might get the impression that the article is implying nothing has changed and so this change is based on nothing.

2)”That’s up from 52 percent support in mid-August, but still down from 62 percent in June.”

Unfortunately, such polling numbers were also not widely reported in June either. So now such strong past support comes out only to downplay the current poll numbers?

No matter how strong the support when the public option is properly explained and when misinformation has been dispelled, all that gets reported is the opposition to this particular solution. If the public seems to favor it, they are compared with the minority of Republicans in the Senate who may or may not have the power to stop it.

So is this story about the will of the people or the practicality of the politics in passing the legislation?

And if we want to have a thorough sense of the public support, why do we take at face value that those at the town halls in August represent “the American public” as opposed to an organized minority opposition? Only Rollingstone seems to be covering that side of the story.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/sto ry/30219673/the_lie_machine

Posted by sam | Report as abusive

Why does this article seem to discount the strength of this poll yet take at face value that those at the town halls in August represent “the American public”–as opposed to an organized minority opposition? Only Rollingstone seems to be covering that side of the story.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/sto ry/30219673/the_lie_machine

Posted by sam | Report as abusive

With unemployment at 10%ish, I am surprised that the numbers in favor is only 57% — you would expect it to be more. Just spoke to an oncologist who mentioned one of his patients who is stopping chemo because he lost his job and cannot afford to pay for COBRA coverage. Makes me wonder why HR676 is not getting good traction. HR676 summary – no bills, no co-pays, no deductibles, no bankruptcies due to medical bills, no deaths due to lack of health insurance, free choice of doctors and hospitals.

Posted by S.Regis | Report as abusive

There is still a tremendous political risk for the democrats, the seniors are keenly aware that they are intending to reduce the quality of service to medicare by reducing funding by 500 billion dollars.Also mandating that the healthy young pay a premium to subsidize the different the none paying groups will alienate them. The financial climate is also unstable,repossessions have increased by 23% from last year,and it is being anticipated that commercial real estate is the next bubble that is going to burst in the very near future The deficit for this year is 1.42 trillion dollars 3times bigger than when Bush left office,and unemployment is expected to increase well into 2010.The democrats bill finalizing the will try to impose a single payer system with out any republican support will make them totally responsible.inflation could start rising as the dollar is down almost 20% to other currency,so there is still a tremendous challenge ahead for the democratic party.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

[…] but are virtually controlled by business. I’ll make it very simple: 57% of Americans favor a public option, yet it appears we may not get one. The primary determinant of that are people like Baucus, who […]

Posted by Fixing Healthcare – Page 30 – PreCentral Forums | Report as abusive

I read a poll reporting that the economy is now the number 1 concern over health care costs. A small business owner I recently interviewed said that business was way down and he had just gotten a 20% increase in health insurance premiums. Let’s see…is his number 1 concern the economy or is it health care costs? Let’s try…one of each!

Ron D

Posted by Ron Derven | Report as abusive

[…] but are virtually controlled by business. I’ll make it very simple: 57% of Americans favor a public option, yet it appears we may not get one. The primary determinant of that are people like Baucus, who […]

Posted by Fixing Healthcare – Page 30 – TreoCentral.com | Report as abusive

Everyone knows the Post/ABC polls are flawed in favor of the current admininstration. The funny thing is that actually think that Americans are stupid enough to believe their numbers. I’m sure if FOX did a poll, it would surely show quite the opposite. It’s a shame that the government has to use the media as an outlet for their failed programs. Very few people are actually in favor of any so called public option. How can we stand by and let the government take control of almost 60% of the economy with their healtcare scheme, when they can’t manage social security, the postal service, public schools, etc.?

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

Reuters… come on you can do better than ABC or WP polls… they are a hand of the WH did you find out how many dems,independents and gops where asked and poll? please start getting your news straight and stop pandering the none sense.

54% of Americans don’t want gov. health care.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

I think TC spilled his coffee all over his keyboard when he read this- That’s why we haven’t heard from him yet.

brian, you can’t pin the problems of today’s economy on the people who were elected to clean it up without looking hopelessly foolish. Plus, your numbers are way, way off. The policies of the Bush administration, which included tax cuts during a time of war and a floundering economy, are clearly the primary source of the current deficits. The Obama administration policies that are beginning to give the economy a needed jumpstart — the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in particular — place a distant third in contributing to the 2009 and 2010 deficit numbers.
Even you should be able to understand this. Bush approved tax cuts, but didn’t pay for them. Bush expanded Medicare, but didn’t pay for it. Bush launched two expensive wars, but didn’t pay for them. Bush took a quarter-trillion-dollar surplus, and then handed off a $1.3 trillion deficit to his successor. 40% of the fiscal deterioration we’re seeing — the single largest contributing factor — can be attributed to Bush policies. Another 12% comes from Bush’s financial rescues, while 20% are the result of the economic crisis.
What’s President Obama’s share? 16% of the total, most of which is the result of new spending that was necessary to prevent a depression.
Your bleating about 20% inflation further demonstrates your lack of knowledge of economics and willingness to believe whatever you hear on Glenn Beck. The CBO is currently forecasting a decline in the year-over-year inflation rate until 2012 and only moderate inflation thereafter. The Fed’s unofficial target for core inflation is somewhere between 2% and 2.5% over the next five years. The Fed is not going to sit back and watch inflation take off, they understand that high inflation is creeping into people’s expectations. The Fed has every intention of keeping inflation under control.
There will be no reduction in the care seniors recieve, the young will be relieved that they will not be bankrupted by a burst appendix, the financial climate is improving, and inflation will remain contained. The Chicken Littles will remain in their basements posting nonsense during the commercial breaks on Fox, and the only challenge that Democrats face is the consequences of not living up to their electoral mandate.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

getplaning when you log on to reuters there is a little graf on the right hand side of the screen,it tells the true picture of how well our economy is doing by the dramatic decline of the dollar.How long to you think china is going to bail us out as they see their investment is turning into confette?The improving financial climate is not as certain to the chicken littles here in California i talked to 3 friends of mine friday who have businesses of between 30 to 100 employees and each one is keeping the their doors open by injecting their own personal money into their companies.They do not expect to see a change in demand because there is no confidence in what the Obamarites are doing.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

A recent Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll done in Maine shows 58% favor a public option and 76% are in favor of major insurance industry overhaul. Thank you Olympia Snowe for listening to your constituents.
I really hate to say this, but for eight years those of us on the left were subject to the policies and mismanagement of the Bush administration. So for you on the right, buckle up, your not going to like the next eight years. Eight years of Bush favoring industry, the rich and his money hungry cronies over the common citizen, a war we didn’t want and now can’t get out of, tax breaks for the rich while the middle class shrank, federal contracts for psychos like Blackwater, no bid contracts for Cheney’s old company, total disregard for the environment and no wall street or industry over sight.
Well guess what righties, screw you, it’s our turn. So make your signs and go to your rallies just like we did for eight years and at the end of our eight year run we’ll see where the country stands. My guess is we’ll be much better off when Obama leaves office than we were when Bush left.

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive

Eric. Wow! You become emboldened when you see a poll that “appears” to state fact. It doesn’t. 13 percent more democrats were polled in that Post/ABC poll. The majority of Americans do not want the “public option” or any of the other plans mucking through congress.

54 percent of Americans do not want government health insurance.

What is happening now in congress is that they are attempting to “force” what most
Americans do not want.

You can say “screw you”, that is exactly the kind of low class of people like you are on the liberal left. It’s all about name calling and character assassination with people like you.

Yeah, isn’t it great to have a congress and an administration who don’t care what people want…

I am willing to bet you eat your words about the mess Obama will leave us….

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

TC–the fact that there is such a gap in the number of people in the survey who identified as democrats versus republicans does not mean the poll is inaccurate. There has been a downward trend in the number of people who identify as republican in the past year–as more people identify as independent or no party, so this is not surprising. I mean, seriously, what do you expect given what bush and the republicans delivered over 8 years?

I’m sure those numbers will change if Obama and the democrats don’t accomplish much within the next few months. So if you feel that strongly about being right, just pray for a second Great Depression.

Posted by sam | Report as abusive

sam. The poll is not accurate. But since you wish it to be so, then it must be so.

54 percent do not want the public option or any other plan mucking through congress. This has nothing to do with Bush, but it does have to do with what Americans want.

Don’t worry, the people in power know the poll in this article isn’t not even close to how Americans feel. You supporters are in the majority.

However, it really might not matter because this bunch in power are only interested in their own agenda and not what the people really want and they don’t want anything being forced on us.

You won’t like the result, no matter how much you think you do.

BTW Sam, this president has given us a 1.4 trillion deficit in a short 9 months. If you think we can afford this health care fiasco, then you are sticking your head in the sand about the problems this will create…Seen the dollar lately and the price of gold? Probably not…

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

So you don’t trust this single poll? How about 8 polls??

All of the following polls demonstrate consistent public majority support for either a public option, medicare-type program, or some government-run competition to the private insurance industry. While this support declined in some polls during the summer (in my opinion, do to negative coverage associated with town hall meetings and misinformation campaigns), it has rebounded recently,and remains the majority opinion.

EBRI, a leading authority on health care industry issues found overwhelming support (83%!) for the public option back in June.
http://www.ebri.org/pdf/PR.843_11June09. HCS_09.pdf

CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Oct. 16-18, 2009. N=1,038 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

“Now thinking specifically about the health insurance plans available to most Americans, would you favor or oppose creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies?”

Favor Oppose Unsure
% % %

61 38 1

55 41 4

ABC News/Washington Post Poll. Oct. 15-18, 2009. N=1,004 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.5.

“Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?”

Support Oppose Unsure
% % %

57 40 3

55 42 3

52 46 2

62 33 5

CBS News Poll. Oct. 5-8, 2009. N=829 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults).
“Would you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan — something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get — that would compete with private health insurance plans?”

Favor Oppose Unsure
% % %

62 31 7

65 26 9

60 34 6

66 27 7

64 29 7

72 20 8

Ipsos/McClatchy Poll conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs. Oct. 1-5, 2009. N=1,296 adults nationwide. MoE ± 2.7.

“One of the points being debated is whether or not the government should create a public health insurance plan as an alternative to private insurance plans. Which of the following is closest to your opinion? It is necessary to create a public health insurance plan to make sure that all Americans have access to quality health care. Access to quality health care for all Americans can be achieved without having to create a public health insurance plan.”

Is Necessary Not Necessary Unsure
% % %

53 42 5

49 46 5

52 44 4

Quinnipiac University Poll. Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2009. N=2,630 registered voters nationwide. MoE ± 1.9.

“Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?”

Support Oppose Unsure
% % %

9/29 – 10/5/09
61 34 6

7/27 – 8/3/09
62 32 6

69 26 5

Pew Research Center Poll. Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2009. N=1,500 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3 (for all adults).

“Now I’d like to ask you about some of the specific proposals being considered to address health care. Would you favor or oppose [see below]?”

Favor Oppose Unsure
% % %
“A government health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans”

9/30 – 10/4/09
55 38 8

52 37 10

NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted by the polling organizations of Peter Hart (D) and Bill McInturff (R). Sept. 17-20, 2009. N=1,005 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.1 (for all adults).

“And thinking about one aspect of the debate on health care legislation — In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance: extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?” Half sample (Form A), MoE ± 4.4

Not That
Not at All
% % % % %

48 25 8 15 4

41 35 12 8 4

Posted by sam | Report as abusive

sam. Thanks for all the indisputable poll numbers. Well, if they really measured the mood of Americans, then this health care plan mucking through congress would be a slam dunk. It would have already passed and congress and president would have already forced their garbage on the majority who do not want what they have to offer.

You can see they are in real trouble. The numbers you provide to not show the truth.

I am not concerned with your liberal polls. The president and congress know those polls are garbage….54 percent do not want any health care fiasco mucking through congress…

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

TC-if you’re going to call a poll inaccurate you should have a legitimate reason (e.g., low sample size, non-representative sampling, misleading questions, implausible trends). Simply dismissing all of these polls as “liberal” and pulling out of the ether a magical 54% in the other direction sounds like Glenn Beck.

For example: The July Fox News Poll on health care appears to be political. It samples 34% republicans and 40% democrats based on a list of registered voters rather than the general population. Based on citations from Wikipedia, recently 34-36% of Americans self-identify as democrats and 20-26% self-identify as republicans. So, intentionally or not, Fox inflates the number of democrats by 11% and republicans by 31% (using the high end of the range for each group)–an artificial overestimate of republican opinion in their survey.

Further, they ask very politically-polarizing questions (whether you want Obama to succeed, if there should be unaccountable czars in Obama’s administration) before getting to the public option question–sometimes asking the same question twice in a slightly different way.
Then their question on the public option makes no mention of the fact that it’s optional–only that it’s government run and competing with private insurance.
http://www.foxnews.com/projects/pdf/0723 09_poll.pdf
Compared with every one of the polls I cited, this appears closer to a push poll (designed to influence opinion) rather than an attempt to honestly measure a representative sample of the American public.

As for the realpolitik of passing legislation, you should know that in a representative democracy, the people do not always get what they want. Did Al Gore who won the popular vote by 500,000 become president in 2001? There is no such thing as “slam dunk” in politics, and republicans are so much better at playing dirty when they are in the minority–actually when they are in the majority as well.

Posted by sam | Report as abusive

sam. My point stands. In the legislative process, the politicians run with the polls. If it were true that the vast “majority” really were in favor of the health care mess mucking around in congress, it would have passed “easily” by now. But you can see it hasn’t because they are well aware of the outrage in this country toward their policies. Once again, 56 percent want nothing to do with anything they have to offer. Guess what? The proof is in the pudding. But they can always force it on us, which is what is appears they are trying to do…

As for your Al Gore comment. As you are aware, our presidents are elected by way of the electoral college. George Bush won the election according to the rules set forth by our founders. By these rules, Al Gore did not win the election even though the big cities in the west put him over the top. The electoral college was a stoke of genious set up by our founders to ensure every state, based on population, had a voice in the election of our presidents. That’s the way it should be and it is that way. You are mixing apples and oranges by comparing the legislative process with the electoral process.

Once again, if the clear majority of Americans wanted this health care mess in congress, then we would already have it. We don’t because people don’t want it and congress knows it….Just the way it is.

Show me some more numbers, but it doesn’t change anything. It just makes you feel better…You need to see the forest between the trees…

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

TC-It’s “the forest for the trees”–don’t know how you’d get a forest between individual trees. anyway…

The American legislative process and the electoral process are both examples of representative democracy–in both instances, representatives for the people stand
in to make the final decision. So again, this is not a democracy but a representative democracy, and the will of the people, while pandered to at time, is not always
respected. This–not pudding–explains the disconnect between the polls and the pols.

Alexander Hamilton helped to set up the electoral college precisely because he didn’t trust “the mob” and thought a few wise men would make more rational decisions–doesn’t that sounds elitist?

The problem in my opinion is that there is too much distance between politicians and the people. This includes lobbyists acting on behalf of special interests
(such as hospitals and insurance companies) and a corporate media that is more interested in accurately reporting what people think about balloon boy than what people think about health care reform.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

I didn’t say “individual” trees, you made that up. But I can see you are petty and this will be the last time I respond to you on this thread. I do not like petty people and you are one who will stoop to those levels, just to prove you are smarter than everyone else when in reality you are just petty…

You have done nothing to disprove my point. If the polls were accurate, then we would have health care “reform’ already. I see the Harry Reid is about to “force” a public option on the majority who do not want it. In fact, 54 percent don’t want anything to do with any plan mucking about in congress,

The fact of the matter is public option or not, the people are not in favor of the democratic version of health reform. That makes the public option a false argument because since the majority of Americans do not want any version of the administration or congresses health care “fix”, that means it doesn’t matter what they put in it…the people don’t want it. That’s a fact and not open to discussion. I follow the only poll that is consistently correct (proven)…Rasmussen. You can go and see the truth about health care there.

Have a nice day, you will now be arguing with yourself….I really don’t have time for petty people….

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

Sam, you are wasting your time trying to get TC to see the light. He is incapable of honest debate, as I have shown over and over again. The rest of us know what the truth is.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

[…] how about the one that the majority of Americans favor the public option– while 87% claim they are happy with what they have?  Huh?  Will we have a public option in a […]

Posted by American Thinker: December 7, 2009 “Absolutely!” Wrong | Jeannie-ology | Report as abusive