CREATING A STRONG INCENTIVE TO LIE…. About a month ago, CNN conducted a poll and asked respondents, “As you may know, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would make major changes in the country’s health care system. Based on what you have heard or read about that bill, do you generally favor it or generally oppose it?” The results were pretty evenly split — 49% opposed the bill, 46% supported it.

Today, CNN released a new poll, asking about the Senate bill. The results were painful.

“As a result, more than six in 10 say they oppose the Senate health care bill,” [CNN Polling Director Keating Holland] said. “Republicans obviously don’t like the bill, but two-thirds of independents also say they are against it.”

One of the main sticking points, a public option administered by the federal government that would compete with private insurers, wins support from 53 percent of the public.

Now, the poll doesn’t reflect the proposed compromise being considered in the Senate, but it’s unclear if it would make any difference to the overall results — the part that’s being negotiated is more popular than the bill itself.

It’s unclear how many of the 61% of opponents are on the left — i.e., those who oppose it because it’s not liberal enough — but looking through some of the internals (pdf), it’s clear that much of the opposition is the result of the public believing the lies they’ve been told. For example, a whopping 79% of those CNN polled believe that the federal budget deficit would be even higher if reform passes, despite all the evidence pointing to the exact opposite conclusion. What’s more, 85% believe their taxes would go up, which is also clearly not true.

The moral of the story, then, is to lie like crazy during all policy debates. An apprehensive public is likely to believe bogus claims, and the media will simply pass blatant lies along with “he said, she said” reporting. Treating voters like grown-ups will only lead to punishment when tackling the major issues of the day.

For what it’s worth, Americans still trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle major changes to the country’s health care system, but the gap has all but disappeared — the Dems’ lead is down to three, 43% to 40%. This, despite the child-like absurdities of GOP arguments and tactics throughout the year.

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.