The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

GOP Poll: Yes, People Want a Public Option

June 22, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

The GOP-leaning polling outfit Resurgent Republic is out with a new survey that tests conservative messaging on health care and recommends that Republicans talk about “budgetary impact, taxes and the threat to private coverage” to scuttle Democratic plans. But the internals aren’t that rosy for the Republican position, either. The poll asks this question:

Do you think it is the federal government’s responsibility to provide health care coverage to all Americans, to provide health care coverage only to those who cannot afford it on their own, or not provide health care coverage to anyone and leave it up to individuals to provide their own health care coverage?

Thirty-one percent of people said the government should provide “coverage for all” and 35 percent said “coverage for those who can’t afford it.” Only 29 percent said health care coverage should be entirely left to individuals. Among Republicans, 46 percent chose one of the first two options to 51 percent who chose the laissez-faire option.

The poll tests several possible messages for the 2010 election, many of them with tough partisan phrasing, and the public option isn’t as controversial as Republicans might like. Message A:

Americans need a public health insurance plan administered by the federal government to expand choices and control costs by competing with private health insurance companies.

Message B:

A government-run health insurance plan will use taxpayer subsidies to undercut private insurance rates, and force private companies out of business, resulting in everyone going into a  government-run plan.

The public option wins out, 47-44, with the only bright spot for Republicans being the preference of independents; 51 percent of them support B, the generic conservative message.

Another message test: Message A:

The problem with health care costs is greedy insurance companies and drug companies charging way too much for the services they provide. If the government regulated what they could charge, health care charges would be a lot more reasonable.

Message B:

Government regulation of  health care prices will lead to less innovative treatments, lower quality health care, and fewer health care providers. Government price controls have never worked.

The first message, the populist one, wins out by 55 to 39 percent; independents support it 51 to 38 percent.

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