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Polls Show Americans Like Choice More Than Health Care

When it comes to health care, at least, following the polls can be tricky.

Take this latest one Sam Stein reports on for The Huffington Post, showing that 77 percent of Americans think it’s important to have a “choice” between government-run health insurance and private coverage. That poll comes from Survey USA. Meanwhile, Rasmussen Reports found just 34 percent of Americans support a health care reform plan without a public option. Okay — so far, so good.

So how is it that Rasmussen’s last poll on health care reform found that only 42 percent of voters supported the Democrats’ proposed health reform plan, when that plan still clearly included a “public option”? Back then (last week), the whole Democratic proposal for health reform was sinking, leading President Obama and some members of his administration to start backing away from the government-run option and proclaiming their newfound flexibility.

Well, that Rasmussen poll referred to the Obama plan as simply “the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and the congressional Democrats.” It seems significant that none of the Rasmussen questions included the word “choice” in them. And as pollsters for NBC found earlier this week, without the word “choice,” only 43 percent of the public favored “creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies.”

Meanwhile, another Rasmussen poll earlier this month found that “51% of the nation’s voters fear the federal government more than private insurance companies.” I guess that’s when they’re not offered a “choice” between the two.

If this confirms anything, it may be that Americans just don’t like to commit. MoveOn.org, which commissioned the SurveyUSA poll and supports the public option, was wise to that.

Still, as Stein notes, when read an actual description of the president’s health care plan (when it still included the public option), 51 percent of SurveyUSA respondents said they “favored” the approach; 43 percent opposed it. Asked the same question by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, 53 percent of respondents said they favored the president’s plan, and 43 percent opposed it.

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