Opinion polls show public option has support

October 20, 2009 7:14:47 PM PDT
Spurred by new poll numbers, liberals in Congress are stepping-up pressure for the public option component of health care reform.

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You don't see this phenomenon very often in politics, but the latest polls suggest we are seeing it now. People shifting their opinion over a government funded alternative to private health insurance and the left is seizing on those numbers to try and further their cause.

Back in August, when angry voters were shouting down any suggesting of a publicly funded health insurance option, political analysts said the public option was dead. However, in September the left began pushing back with demonstrations for the public option.

The latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows 57 percent support for a public option and a whopping 76 percent if the public option is limited to only those who can't afford private insurance. Progressives in the House of Representatives say they'll vote against any bill that doesn't have it.

"I would and I think it loses in the House, if it comes back from the Senate without a public option," says Marin County Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, D-Santa Rosa.

Rep. Woolsey says moderate Democrats in the House need to remember that for progressives the public option is a compromise.

"My constituents wanted a single-payer health care reform bill," says Rep. Woolsey.

A progressive political group is funding ads in Nevada to pressure Senate leader Harry Reid, D-NV, who is up for re-election next year.

In San Francisco on Tuesday Rev. Jesse Jackson called it a must have provision.

"You cannot trust the insurance companies and the pharmaceuticals and the hospitals without in fact a public option," said Jackson.

Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to characterize the public option as a government take over, but on Tuesday the criticism was increased taxes.

"The majority wants to begin the health care debate by passing a bill which with interest would cost $300 billion and not be paid for," says Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Senate minority leader.

And that theme is being echoed in new ads sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Don't expect the claims of government takeover to disappear, but ABC7's political analyst professor Bruce Cain, Ph.D., says we are witnessing a rare shift in political public opinion.

"You don't see it on abortion or you don't see it on patriotism issues and things that are very easy to understand, but on very technical issues it's possible for people to change their minds several times. You don't see it very often in public opinion, but that's what's happened," says Cain.

Liberal Democrats in Congress want the president to pressure moderates into voting for a public option. Cain says it's too early to tell how strongly the president will weigh in. The critical stage for the health care legislation will come in negotiations between the House and Senate versions and we're not there yet.

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