EDITOR'S NOTE: The story below includes references to polling conducted by the firm Research 2000. The reliability and accuracy of Research 2000's polling has since been called into serious question by a report published in June 2010 by a group of statistical analysts.
Yet another public opinion poll in a state with a conservative Democratic senator shows that the public option not only is widely popular among voters, but could become a potent issue in the upcoming congressional elections.
One day after releasing a Research 2000 survey of Indiana residents -- in a study designed to get the attention of Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh -- the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America is going public with the results from Arkansas, home state of Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln.
The findings are equally persuasive. From the PCCC:
PUBLIC OPTION: Arkansas voters favor a public option 56% to 37%. Independents favor it 57% to 32%. Democrats 83% to 12%.
2010 GENERAL ELECTION: If Lincoln joined Republicans in filibustering a public option, 35% of Independents would be less likely to vote for her, 10% more likely. (Over 3 to 1). Among Democrats, 49% to 7% (7 to 1). Lincoln is only 2% ahead of Republican Gilbert Baker (41% to 39%), a net drop of 5% since last month's Research 2000 poll.
2010 PRIMARY: 57% of Democrats say they are not sure if Lincoln should be the Democratic nominee again, or want someone new. If Lincoln joined Republicans in filibustering a public option, 48% of Democrats would be even less likely to support her in a primary.
The survey was compiled via interviews with 600 residents of Arkansas, which is a significant enough number to give the findings some weight. But the larger narrative is equally important. In state after state -- including ones deemed to be political "toss-ups" -- the public option polls extremely well. In Indiana, for instance, voters favored the plan for government-run insurance by a margin of 52% to 42%, and it jumped to 59% to 33% among Independents.
In short, the public may very well be ahead of their elected representatives on this topic. They're certainly ahead of the media. Just last night, on MSNBC'S Hardball, the round-table discussion focused squarely on how tough it would be for these conservative Democrats to vote against the will of their constituents and SUPPORT a public option.
"It's not a matter of scaring people," analyst Michelle Bernard said of ads warning that Lincoln and others would lose their seats if they back a public plan. "It's a matter of saying listen to your constituents."
"Blanche Lincoln, I think, is a wonderful person," added host Chris Matthews. "She faces a very conservative... you talking about people, they voted for McCain overwhelmingly down there and probably would do it again."
"Look she's up for re-election, she's got a touch race ahead of her and she's one of the most vulnerable Democrats," concluded Time Magazine's Jay Newton Small.
SOME MORE FINDINGS FROM PCCC'S SURVEYS:
LINCOLN JOB PERFORMANCE: Sen. Lincoln has 41% favorable, 49% unfavorable rating. (Independents: 38% favorable, 52% unfavorable.) 38% think Lincoln is in-touch, 47% out-of-touch (Independents: 39% in, 47% out). 35% say Lincoln is effective, 51% ineffective. (Independents: 35% ineffective, 50% ineffective.)
2010 GENERAL ELECTION: If Bayh joined Republicans in filibustering a public option, 35% of Independents would be less likely to vote for him, 13% more likely. (Nearly 3 to 1). Among Democrats, 51% to 7% (Over 7 to 1).
2010 PRIMARY: If Evan Bayh voted to filibuster a public option, 54% of Democratic voters would be less likely to vote for him in a primary. Only 6% would be more likely. (9 to 1)