WASHINGTON -- One day after the Senate jettisoned the public insurance option from its health care legislation, a new CBS poll finds that 59 percent of the populace supports the inclusion of such a provision, which would compete in the marketplace with private insurers.
Only 29 percent opposed it, signaling an unusually high 30-point favorable rating. The numbers remain materially unchanged from last month, when CBS found that 61 percent supported it while 28 percent held a negative view of it.
The idea has faced intense opposition from Republican leaders and conservative activists, who have decried it as a "government takeover" of health care and a slippery slope to "socialized medicine." While President Obama and the Democratic leadership have consistently championed the idea, a number of Democrats have been skeptical.
The opposition against the public option did not succeed in removing it from the House bill, which passed narrowly. But an apparent impasse in the Senate due to recalcitrant Democrats has compelled the White House to soften its stance.
As a result, Senate Democrats on Wednesday indicated they would compromise the provision in favor of a Medicare expansion -- which the GOP also opposes.
The consistently high support among Americans for the public option defies the posturing of red-state Democrats like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln and Mary Landrieu, who have refused to support the provision on the grounds that their constituents are against it. State polling data, however, says otherwise.
Instead, the inability for Democrats to pass a public option signals that voters are unsure of what the term signifies when it's thrown around in debates in the media and Congress. When told that it's merely a supplemental option, the public is far more supportive of it.
The Congressional stalemate could also be a result of a fierce campaign waged by the insurance industry, conservative activists and GOP leaders to misrepresent the nature of the provision and its likely impact on the health care system.