IT’S NOT JUST THE PUBLIC OPTION…. The latest NYT poll on health care shows 72% support for a public option, which, under the circumstances, is a statistic with considerable political salience.

But looking through the poll, there was one other relevant detail to keep in mind. Respondents were asked:

“Regardless of you personally vote, do you think the Republican Party or the Democratic Party is more likely to improve the health care system?”

A 57% majority prefer Dems, while 18% prefer Republicans. The 18% figure is tied for the lowest score for either party on this question since the NYT began asking it nearly two decades ago.

Adding insult to injury, “Even one of four Republicans said the Democrats would do better” improving health care for Americans.

I mention this, not to kick the GOP when it’s down, but to reinforce the notion that “bipartisanship” need not be a goal unto itself. Most Americans support the policy ideas Republican lawmakers hate, and most Americans trust Democrats to take the lead in improving the system.

And yet, Republican opposition and Democratic efforts at a “bipartisan” bill may scuttle the larger reform effort. What an odd system.

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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.