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Americans Would Support Public Option If It Reduced Deficit, Says HuffPost/YouGov Poll

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PUBLIC OPTION POLL
President Barack Obama shakes hands with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, during a meeting to discuss the deficit and economy. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) | AP

Health care costs have become one focal point of the fiscal cliff negotiations, with Republicans offering a plan that would include major cuts to Medicare.

But revisiting the public option, an approach suggested in 2010 by President Barack Obama's fiscal commission, has attracted virtually no consideration, perhaps because it's not widely seen as a cost-cutting measure, according to an online HuffPost/YouGov Poll.

People are divided on whether or not the public option, which would create a government-run health insurance plan, is a good idea, with 32 percent saying yes, 29 percent no, and the rest that they're not sure. But if adding the public option would reduce the national deficit, 45 percent would support the plan, while just 22 percent would disapprove.

Half of Democrats said the proposal was a good idea, and 70 percent said they'd support it as a deficit-reduction measure. A quarter of Republicans said they'd approve of the public option if it cut costs. (View the full crosstabs here.)

Most Americans, however, see the public option as the opposite of a frugal choice. Americans were more than three times as likely to believe that a government-run health plan would increase the deficit as they were to believe that it would decrease it.

Analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in 2010 found that a government-run plan that negotiated rates with care providers could save $25 billion in the next 10 years, while another version of the plan allowing governments to set rates could save more.

Only a quarter of those polled found those estimates believable, with the rest skeptical or unsure of the CBO's report. Only 8 percent of Republicans found the numbers credible.

Some Republicans have argued that the public option would amount to a government takeover of the health care industry, or that it could possibly cause private insurance rates to rise.

The public option, a hot topic during Obama's first two years in office, has since received little national attention. Only three in 10 Americans said they'd heard a lot about the proposal to create a government-run health insurance plan. Those who'd heard most about it were also the most likely to disapprove of enacting it.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll surveyed 1,000 adults on Nov. 29 and 30, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points, though that variation does not take into account other potential sources of error including statistical bias in the sample.

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