GOVERNMENT AND HEALTHCARE…. Last week’s conservative meme about medical records and government’s heavy hand “guiding” physicians’ practices was based on a blatant lie, but it was also intended to play on alleged fears of “government-run healthcare.” For many on the right, it’s supposed to be the ultimate trump-card — throw around the word “socialized” a few times, and any proposal relating to healthcare is necessarily a bad one.

And to be sure, for certain Limbaugh-listening segments of the population, this might be effective. But Atrios and Yglesias are both noting a recent CBS/NYT poll (.pdf) showing the public’s comfort with government playing a prominent role in the healthcare system. This was published a week before President Obama’s inauguration:

Americans are more likely today to embrace the idea of the government providing health insurance than they were 30 years ago. 59% say the government should provide national health insurance, including 49% who say such insurance should cover all medical problems.

In January 1979, four in 10 thought the federal government should provide national insurance. Back then, more Americans thought health insurance should be left to private enterprise.

Indeed, public expectations about government’s role has increased dramatically. As Matt explained, “It’s important to understand that when people say that a move to a single-payer health care system isn’t politically feasible, they don’t mean that it would be unpopular. They mean that our political system is too broken and corrupt to deliver one.”

I’d just add that the CBS/NYT poll isn’t an aberration, and this trend isn’t even new. This study from March 2006 still rings true:

Many adults in the United States believe their federal administration is not doing enough to help them with the cost of medical services, according to a poll by Princeton Survey Research Associates for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. 70 per cent of respondents think the government spends too little on health care.

The disconnect between the right’s fear tactics and the public’s attitudes is pretty obvious.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.