Health Care

Public Opinion on the Public Option, the Opt-Out, and the Trigger

Nov 24 '09

I’ve written before on opinion toward various proposals about the public option — e.g., the option alone vs. with an opt-out provision. Last week, Quinnipiac released some new data that speaks to this question. These come from a poll of registered voters conducted from Nov. 9-16, 2009. At my request, they also supplied some additional cross-tabs, for which I am grateful.

The poll included questions about the public option, the opt-out provision, and the trigger:

bq. Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?

bq. There is a proposal that would allow states to opt out of a public option – that is it would be left up to each state to decide whether or not to give people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan. Do you think that is a good idea or a bad idea?

bq. Some have suggested that the creation of a public option should only be triggered if the private market does not meet benchmarks to extend coverage to all Americans. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?

In this poll, 57% favored the public opinion, 43% thought the opt-out provision was a good idea, and 38% thought the trigger was a good idea.

Obviously, we want to know about combinations of attitudes. For example, how many supporters of the public opinion are also supporters of the opt-out or trigger? Are their opponents of the public option that would support a triggered version? Etc. This is where the cross-tabs are useful.

The graph above focuses on those respondents who had opinions on both issues in each combination (public option and opt-out, public option and trigger). This is about 87% of respondents.

The graph shows that supporters of the public option are relatively evenly divided between supporting a pure public option and supporting a public option with either a trigger or opt-out provision. Opponents of the public option are evenly divided about the opt-out, but tend to oppose the trigger.

Thus, about one-third of the sample supports the “pure” public option. A slightly smaller group, roughly 30%, supports a “qualified” public option that features either an opt-out provision or a trigger. About 20% of the public oppose the option, but would support it with an opt-out provision. Thirteen percent oppose it but would support it with a trigger. Finally, there is a “diehard” group of public option opponents, who are about 20-25% of the population.

There is grist for both supporters and opponents of the public option in these findings. Supporters could take heart that about 75-80% of the sample supports some sort of public option — at least given how these various proposals are described by Quinnipiac. Opponents could take heart that only about a third of respondents supports the pure public option.

I also note that the “median” member of the public appears to support a qualified public option, which is not that different than the view of the hypothetical median Senator, at least as far as I can tell.