09/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

NBC To Test Public Option As Choice And Alternative In Next Survey

Critics who called out the NBC poll for excising the word "choice" from its question about a public option for health insurance will be happier by next month's survey, which will ask the question both with and without that key element.

Supporters of the public option were upset by Tuesday's survey which, after the language change, found support for a government-run alternative to private insurance down a staggering 33 percent, to 43 percent, in just two months.

NBC's White House correspondent Chuck Todd told the Huffington Post on Wednesday afternoon that pollsters Bill McInturff and Peter Hart will ask respondents two questions regarding the public plan for their September study.

The first: "Would you favor or oppose creating a public health care plan administered by the federal government that would compete directly with private health insurance companies?"

The second: "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?"

The inclusion of both questions should provide an interesting window into how slight changes in messaging can (or don't) drastically alter the health care debate. The latter question, which emphasizes the idea of having something publicly run, was asked in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in June with 76 percent of respondents saying they felt it was either extremely or quite important to have a public option. The former question was asked in July and August, with 46 and 43 percent of respondents respectively saying they favored a public option.

Todd's decision to put both questions in the mix also should placate a host of progressive health care proponents who were critical of the NBC pollsters.

On Wednesday, Todd defended the decision to drop "choice" from the survey, calling the word a "trigger" that sent a certain "message" to respondents. And while he argued that the revised way of asking the question was "very neutral" he admitted that the idea of putting both options side by side was "something we wanted to test."

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