New poll numbers from NBC/Wall Street Journal produce two major and potentially conflicting story lines when it comes to the Obama administration's efforts for a health care overhaul. On the one hand, the American public overwhelmingly favors a choice between getting insurance coverage either through the private market or a government run option. Indeed, 76 percent of respondents said it was either "extremely" or "quite" important to "give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance."
With the public option being such a lightning rod in the current health care debate, progressive activists are already emailing around these numbers as evidence that voters are way ahead of the politicians. Certainly, the findings provide a boost of sorts to President Obama, who has stood by the public plan even as Republican opposition has crystallized.
That said, the president still has his work cut out for him. In the same NBC/WSJ poll, only 33 percent of respondents said they thought the president's health care plan, to the extent they knew of it, was a "good idea;" 32 percent said it was a bad idea.
In short: the administration has yet to complete the sale. An additional 30 percent of the public had no opinion of Obama's proposal for reform. But when read a description of the general outline -- requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions, an employer mandate, tax credits for lower income families to buy coverage, and tax increases on wealthier Americans to pay for it - the number of respondents in support rose to 55 percent.