Behind the Numbers: Home Front on the Public Option

By Jennifer Agiesta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 2:06 PM

The 13 senators who yesterday voted against both government-sponsored health insurance plans represent populations whose support for health reform improves significantly when the plan does not include just such an option.

Among those living in states represented by the 13* Senate Finance Committee members opposing both amendments, a majority in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll gave a thumbs down to the health reform proposals being developed by the Congress and Obama administration. But when asked about a package that excluded a public option, the results flipped and most stood in favor of the reform effort.

The opposite was true among those living in states represented by the 8** members of the committee who voted for both amendments, as support in those states held steady regardless of the inclusion of a public option.

Just over half (51 percent) in states represented by a senator who opposed the two amendments said the proposals as they understood them would create too much government involvement in health care, about four in 10 (41 percent) said it would be the right amount and fewer than one in 10 (7 percent) said it was not enough government action. Among those whose senator backed both amendments, 48 percent considered it the right amount, 16 percent said it wasn't enough government action and 34 percent felt it went too far.

The politics of the vote are also notably different between the two sets of constituencies. Majorities in both (53 percent among opposing states, 55 percent among supporting) said a congressional candidate's views on the reform effort would not impact their vote next November, but among those who said the vote would be crucial, the divide is clear. Among those in states represented by opponents of the amendments, 28 percent said support for reform would make them less apt to back a candidate while just 18 percent in the supporting set of states said the same.

Among both sets of constituencies, about seven in 10 said Democrats in Congress should modify their bill to win some GOP support.

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