SCHIP: The latest polling numbers

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On the eve of the House vote on overriding the President’s veto, this new survey, conducted by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health lays out a pretty stark political equation in favor of expanding the program. From the summary:

The survey finds strong majority support for the reauthorization and expansion of SCHIP (the State Children’s Health Insurance Program). Given the basic parameters of the expansion – its cost, the number of new children who would be covered, and how it would be paid for– seven in ten Americans say they back the plan. This asking was followed by a version of the question that provided proponents’ and opponents’ strongest arguments. Even when presented with these pros and cons, support stays at 65 percent.

Though the partisan divide on SCHIP is certainly large, there is a good deal more bipartisanship here than on issues such as Iraq. Democrats overwhelmingly favor the reauthorization: 82 percent before hearing the pro and con arguments, and 80 percent even after hearing them. Tilting the issue toward the bill’s proponents, Independents also weigh in with majority support: 69 percent would back it (dropping only 3 points after hearing the arguments). Instead of being the usual mirrorimage of Democrats, Republicans are very divided on the SCHIP issue: a narrow majority (54 percent) say they support the expansion when asked a straight up or down question, while 41 percent are opposed. This narrow divide deepens a bit – to 47 percent support, 45 percent oppose – after hearing the arguments on both sides.

It’s worth noting that the SCHIP debate takes place in a general climate where two in three Americans (67 percent) think that the government is doing “too little” in providing health insurance to children who don’t have it. This includes a majority among men and women, among every age group, and among every income group.

Note that only half of Americans say they have heard at least some of the news about the ongoing SCHIP debates, with half the country not paying attention. Those who have heard little or nothing about the program are as likely to back its expansion as those who say they have heard at least some news about the issue.