By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 10/21/2009 12:58:42 PM ET 2009-10-21T16:58:42

Claim: Most Americans support the Democrats' reforms ideas, so a representative vote in Congress would enact them.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday showed that 57 percent of those interviewed favor a government-run public insurance plan, with virtually the same percentage supporting another ingredient of Democrats’ reform efforts: a requirement that all Americans buy insurance. Other surveys show support for specific ideas contained in the legislation. A recent Pew Research poll, for example, found that two-thirds of respondents favored mandating that all Americans have insurance, and 55 percent said they favored a government-run insurance plan. Given this data, why can’t Democrats in Congress just vote the way the majority of the public wants?

Fact or fiction?
Fact. Yes, a referendum that mirrored national polls would result in enactment of some specific pieces of the Democrats’ plan. But consider this: in the Washington Post-ABC News poll slightly more people opposed the entire package than favored it. The Pew poll found the same thing: support for specifics, but opposition to the package. Why? "A lack of understanding about what is being proposed, the complexity of the topic, and declining trust in Congress," Pew said. The votes in Congress that matter most may be those of representatives from districts and states that John McCain won in 2008. Case in point: Democratic Rep. Bobby Bright of Alabama, who opposes the public option and who says his party relies too heavily on tax increases. But House leaders may have enough votes to pass their bill without members such as Bright.

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