For some time now, conservatives and some Republicans in Congress have been waging a jihad against the latest version of the “death panels” — the Independent Payment Advisory Board. That’s the independent commission mandated by the health reform law that would be staffed by experts appointed by the President and Congress and make recommendations on how to bring Medicare costs down.

Some GOPers, such as Rep. Phil Gingrey, have claimed that the panel will cause seniors to “die” by “rationing” care, making the baseless charge that it would restrict access to life-saving treatments, and GOPers in Congress have targeted it for repeal. This push has even been joined by some conservative Dems. Critics of the board in Congress argue that it can’t be trusted because it’s an outside board heavily appointed by the president; supporters counter that it’s precisely because it’s outside and independent that it can make the tough decisions necessary to bring down costs.

This is a big deal. As Jonathan Cohn noted recently: “Whether it survives will tell us a lot about whether lawmakers who talk about controlling the cost of health care actually mean it.”

I don’t know whether it will survive or not, but we now have our first poll that shows pretty clearly that the public isn’t buying the attacks.

Today the Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll that asked about the IPAB. It finds that far more Americans trust the IPAB than trust Congress or the insurance companies to make proposals to slow the cost of Medicare.

Specifically, the poll found that a total of 50 percent trust the IPAB a great deal or a fair amount to carry out this mission, versus only 34 percent who trust Congress or the insurance companies a great deal or a fair amount to do it.

Now, presumably 50 percent of Americans wouldn’t trust this board to carry out the task if they thought it could lead to seniors dying. So if any Dems get spooked by these attacks into thinking they should join the push to eliminate it, they shouldn’t. The public trusts this independent board to make these decisions far more than it trusts Congress — i.e., the same legislative body which is talking about getting rid of it and making the decisions itself.

UPDATE: Let me quote Jonathan Cohn a bit more, explaining the stakes here:

Like so many provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the IPAB could probably use a little tweaking. But, in the eyes of the Congressional Budget Office and many experts, the IPAB’s presence bolsters the Affordable Care Act’s ability to hold down the cost of health care. And it does so in a far more humane way than, say, giving seniors vouchers that would buy only a fraction of the coverage Medicare provides now.

Is that the sort of rationing that opponents of IPAB would prefer?

UPDATE II: Another key point is that this poll describes the IPAB accuately to respondents, calling it an “independent panel of full-time experts appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.”