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Public Opinion of Public Option Swayed by Descriptions, Poll Finds

For many Americans, their opinion on a public option insurance plan can be swayed by how such a plan is described, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Thursday shows.

About two-thirds of Americans (62 percent) support a public option insurance plan overall, the poll finds. Democrats, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as several senators, have called for a public option to build on the Affordable Care Act, though the idea would face fierce resistance from Republicans.

But how the public option is described to voters can affect their perception of the idea. The poll found that 70 percent of half of a sample had a favorable view of a “public health insurance option,” while 24 percent opposed it. The other half of the sample was asked whether they favored or opposed creating a “government-administered public health insurance option,” which 53 percent said they favored and 41 percent said they opposed.

The poll found that describing a public option as “government-administered” decreased favorability among members of all political parties, though less so for Democrats than for Republicans.

The poll found that opinions on creating a public option were easily swayed, which the authors said was “unsurprising” since there’s been little public debate on the issue.

Arguments that doctors and hospitals would be paid less under a public option or that the government would have an unfair advantage over private insurance companies made some people more likely to shift their opinion from favorable to opposed, the report said. But the argument that a public option could drive down costs or provide more choice to Obamacare marketplace consumers made some people more likely to support the idea.