The desire for bipartisanship is not unlimited

THE DESIRE FOR BIPARTISANSHIP IS NOT UNLIMITED…. There have been several national polls of late pointing, much to my chagrin, to strong public support for “bipartisan” health care reform. A New York Times/CBS News poll released in late September, for example, found that the public strongly disapproves of Republican efforts, but nevertheless wants Democrats to get GOP support before passing a bill.

The latest nonpartisan Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos, however, put a twist on the question and found an interesting result.

Which of the following scenarios do you prefer/ do you prefer?

Getting a health care bill with the choice of a strong public health insurance option to compete with private insurance plans that’s supported only by Democrats in Congress, OR Getting a health care bill with no public option that has the support of Democrats and a handful of Republicans?

Public option: 52%
No public option: 39%

Even self-identified independents preferred the Dem-only bill with a public option, 47% to 42%.

Greg Sargent highlighted the significance of the poll: “It’s true that other polls have found that majorities prefer that the final bill be bipartisan. But here’s the rub: The previous polls asked the question in isolation — do you want a bipartisan bill, or a partisan one — without explaining to respondents that winning over Republicans could result in actual policy consequences that they might not like. The above is a more accurate framing of the choice the public — and lawmakers — face right now.”

Something for on-the-fence lawmakers to consider: bipartisanship is popular, but the public option is considered more important.