Washington Post Poll and the Government Plan - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Washington Post Poll and the Government Plan

Liberals are touting a new Washington Post poll purporting to show a majority of 57 percent of Americans support including a government-run plan, or public option, in health care legislation. It’s worth noting a few things about this result. The important thing to keep in mind is that while some of us are really focused on the details of the health care debate, it isn’t the same for most of the country. As I noted last week, a Pew poll found that only 56 percent of the public recognized that the “public option” had something vaguely to do with the issue of health care, while 11 percent thought it had to do with either banking regulation, unemployment, or energy policy — and 33 percent wouldn’t even wager a guess. What this tells me is that for a good chunk of the population, polling on the issue will largely depend on how the question is asked, because if only 56 percent know it has something to do with health care, it’s probably even a smaller portion of the public that really understands what it’s all about. So, in this case, the Washington Post asked the question in the most benign sounding way, as it is typically pitched by liberal supporters, “Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans?” In this case, the pollsters used the market-friendly term “compete” even though it’s the subject of tremendous debate whether or not that competition could be fair. Back in June, the Post did another poll, which actually found even broader support for the government plan — 62 percent. But in that poll, they asked a follow up question, “What if having the government create a new health insurance plan made many private health insurers go out of business because they could not compete?” After asking that, support droped to 37 percent.

It’s worth mentioning a few other items from today’s poll. It shows 56 percent support a mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance, and that number goes up to 71 percent when people are told that legislation would also provide financial assistance to those with lower incomes to purchase insurance. However, pollsters did not mention in any of the questions that anybody who does not obtain health insurance would face a tax of $750.

Other findings in the poll are much more mixed. For instance, it shows that:

Overall, 45 percent of Americans favor the broad outlines of the proposals now moving in Congress, while 48 percent are opposed, about the same division that existed in August, at the height of angry town hall meetings over health-care reform. Seven in 10 Democrats back the plan, while almost nine in 10 Republicans oppose it. Independents divide 52 percent against, 42 percent in favor of the legislation.

Meanwhile, as many people disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care as approve — 48 percent — and 68 percent think health care legislation will add to the deficit.

The bottom line: do I think these poll results will be politically useful for those making the case for a government plan? Yes. Do I think it suggests a groundswell of public support for this policy measure? Absolutely not.

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