Looks like most of us don't know. Polls conflict, some showing huge approval -- others not so much. This story casts some light on the conflicting answers we see:
Blumenthal's observations agree completely with my years of going door to door to talk with voters during elections. People seldom have very formed opinions about policy issues. They have loose affinities -- a sense that some candidate or party is "on their side." Lots of them couldn't tell you why, but they know.
And above all, if you ask them a question about something they don't understand, most are not going to admit ignorance. The one thing you can be sure that all of us learned from being schooled is: don't look stupid. Folks guess, usually answering what they think you might want to hear. (That can be very informative if you are listening.)
Does this mean that President Obama and the Democrats have failed to explain the "public option" well? Yes.
If they'd advocated for something like "a choice for coverage that will make sure insurance companies can't rip-off anyone" they'd have boosted support -- among people who trust government. But they'd have brought down the visible wrath of the insurance companies on themselves and had to make a public fight about that, something most Democrats evidently don't want. They understand that most people don't like it when the public arena is filled with anger. (Obviously, the Republicans know that too and they are providing lots of furious scenes.) A more assertive definition of the public option would cost Dems campaign contributions, not only from the insurance giants, but also from the entire financial sector that plays in the same funny money arena.
The Blumenthal piece quoted above makes it pretty clear that, in terms of actual public preferences, the "public option" is still so little understood that some version could be sold if real effort was made at selling.
So -- it's up to people who want universal health coverage to 1) hammer the President to use his bully pulpit; here's a link for that. 2) hammer our Congresspeople to legislate for accessible, affordable universal quality care. Start here. 3) Talk with and listen to people we know about health care reform. Educate ourselves -- here's a good place to start. [.pdf]