On today's American Morning, anchor Kiran Chetry engaged Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele in a discussion of the Democrats' health care bill. Citing a recent CNN poll, she claimed that a majority wants "some kind of public option":
CHETRY: I know one of the things that Republicans are very much against is the public option. And this is a huge hurdle that has to pass. This would mean that the government would have a government-sponsored insurance plan competing with private insurers. And that's a very controversial move.
But our latest CNN poll shows that 56 percent are now in favor of some sort of public option. What is that telling you, as Republicans go out there and talk to their constituents...
STEELE: Well, it doesn't...
CHETRY: ... about the need for some sort of affordable insurance?
STEELE: Well, it's a nice poll. I like to see how the question was asked to the people, because that number tells me that they don't know exactly what it is. When you say some kind of public option...
CHETRY: Well, let me -- this is...
CHETRY: Let me just read it to you so we're not confused here.
STEELE: That could be anything.
CHETRY: Just asked, would you be in favor or a public health insurance option administered by the federal government. In favor, 56 percent, opposed, 42 percent.
Interestingly, what Chetry claimed had been asked in the survey wasn't the actual question. The CNN poll, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, was worded this way:
Now thinking specifically about the health insurance plans available to most Americans, would you favor or oppose creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies?
That private health insurance companies would still be available to compete with a public option is a major consideration in how Americans answer such questions. Gary Langer, director of polling at ABC News, wrote in August:
While we found 62 percent in favor of a public option in June, that dived to 37 percent if it would put many private insurers out of business because they couldn’t compete, as critics charge.
Contrary to what Chetry intimated, her own network's poll doesn't show 56 percent simply favoring "some sort of public option," but rather one that specifically would be in competition with private insurers. She's the one who's confused, not Michael Steele.