The Washington Post published a poll today finding that Americans oppose the Obama administration’s health care plan 48% to 45%. But the headline above, is not the headline the Post ran with. Instead they went with this: Public Option Gains Support: Clear Majority Now Backs Plan.
This headline is fundamentally misleading. By claiming that a “majority now backs plan” the Post makes it seem like there was some point in time when their polling suggested otherwise. That is simply not true. Looking at the poll results over the past six months, the Post found that a high of 62% of Americans supported the plan in June, a low of 52% in August and 55% just last month. And this month the percentage of Americans supporting the public plan skyrocketed from that 55 all the way to … 57%. That’s right: a whole 2% point rise in support of the public option and the Post spun it as “rebounded” support.
And isn’t that 57% in support of the public option 26 points fewer than the 83% support that the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) found? It is also 19 points lower than 76% support NBC News found and 16 points lower than 73% support Lake Research found. On the other end of the spectrum Rasmussen found that only 35% of Americans supported creating a government run insurance company.
The reality is that millions of Americans just do not know what the public option even is. According to Pew, just 56% of Americans even know it has anything to do with health care (banking and the environment were the other options given). Furthermore, what the public option would actually do varies greatly on how it would be structured. As analysis from both the Lewin Group and the Congressional Budget Office has confirmed, the number of Americans forced out of their current health insurance and into a government run program depends greatly on how the public option is structured.
Right now, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing a version of the public option that, by tying premium levels for the new plan within 5% of Medicare, could nudge 83.4 million Americans onto the public plan. If poll respondents were made aware of this little fact, we doubt anywhere near a majority would support it.