October 4, 2009

Surprise: Right-Wing Think Tank-UW Poll Doesn’t Ask Public Option Question

The first poll from the unseemly partnership between the state’€™s most vocal conservative think tank and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’€™s political science department (spoiler alert) reinforces the conservative agenda about President Obama’€™s health insurance reform efforts. And it does so by omitting the central part of the debate: The public option that will at long last bring competition to the health insurance industry.

In a release from the project’€™s leaders UW-Madison’€™s Ken Goldstein and WPRI head George Lightbourn, himself a former top Republican budget official, the ‘€œfindings’€ indicate ‘€“ more Wisconsinites oppose the President’€™s plan than support it.From the available powerpoint material, it appears two questions were asked on health insurance reform. One was whether you support, oppose or don’€™t know enough about the President’€™s health reform plan. The second, some form of ‘€œwhat’€™s the biggest problem in need of a fix on health reform?’€ The four answers, according to a joint release ‘€œreduce costs,’€ ‘€œcover all Americans,’€ ‘€œincrease quality’€ or ‘€œhealth care system fine as it is.’€

Where’€™s the question on the public option? This has been the single biggest and most-discussed issue when it comes to health insurance reform. The public option question usually leads the description of any recent news agency poll on health insurance reform.

The most recent CBS News/New York Times poll from Sept. 19-23 asks this question in its battery: ‘€œWould you favor or oppose the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan — something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get — that would compete with private health insurance plans?’€

The results were 65% support the public option versus just 26% opposed.

This echoes regular polling going back to early summer from CBS/NYT that consistently asked the public option question. The lowest level of support enjoying by a public option in this series of polls was six in 10 supporting a public option to reduce the stranglehold insurance companies have on our health care system.

Same with NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling. Asked Sept. 17-20, they polled among their numerous questions: ‘€œAnd thinking about one aspect of the debate on health care legislation — In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance: extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?:

Extremely important: 48
Quite important: 25
Not that important: 8
Not at all important: 15

Support for the public option: 73%. This is down from an identical June poll that had a support at 76%.

So why not include the public option question?

Is it because the public option is the means by which the (literal) deathgrip insurance companies have on our health care decisions ‘€“ and the line in the sand for the conservative movement and its Republican allies in Congress?

Health insurance companies come between patients and our doctors. And health insurance companies have created an unholy system in which denying us care enriches its profit bottom line.

Business has been booming. Our health insurance premiums have grown at four times the rate of inflation in the last 10 years.

Health related costs are the number one reason people have to declare bankruptcy ‘€“ and 80% of these files have health insurance coverage.

The teabaggers aligned with the conservative ideology of WPRI and its funders, such as the ultra-right wing Bradley Foundation, have led the movement to smear the public option, calling it socialist, facists or whatever else Glenn Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh tell it to ape.

But let’€™s not forget: Poll conducted in the past by WPRI have a conservative conclusion that the polling language seeks to reinforce through ‘€œscience.’€

This poll is nothing different and it should be viewed as much by a skeptical media. The entire point of WPRI’€™s polling, has been propaganda. A headline about a contentious issue that just happens to reinforce conservative dogma.

That’€™s why there was no public option question.

Unfortunately, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, through Ken Goldstein, has been roped into this ideological sideshow. Taxpayers and elected officials who send so many resources to the UW, ought to take note.

Here’s a convenient conclusion, WPRI-UW’s polling just happen to warrant: “We continue to see a lack of confidence in state government…”

That’s a quote from Lightbourn in the press release. It’s the same kind of anti-gubmit talking points one can continually hear from right wing talk radio, like WPRI editor Charlie Sykes.

It all plays into the less regulation of business and financial institutions, less investment in infrastructure, more tax cuts for the rich and corporations that conservatives and Republicans have spent the last generation waging all-out war on behalf.

One Wisconsin Now will keep you informed as more propaganda is released in the guise of ‘€œindependent’€ polls.

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Scot Ross served as Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now & the Institute from 2007 to 2019.

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