UA Poll: Arkansans Don't Like Public Option, Not Interested in Senate Race

Arkansans aren't enamored with the public-option aspect of health-care reform or with the upcoming race for Blanche Lincoln's U.S. Senate seat, according to the University of Arkansas' 11-annual Arkansas Poll.

Of those who have insurance, 51 percent opposed a public option, while 36 percent supported it. Figures were reversed for the uninsured: 56 percent supported a public option, and 33 percent opposed it.

Nearly half of all those surveyed - 48 percent - opposed a public option, with 39 percent supporting the creation by the government of "a new health-insurance plan to compete with private health-insurance plans." 

"Clearly, Arkansans aren't yet sold on the need for health care reform, at least in terms of the public option that's dominated the debate so far," said Janine Parry, the poll's director and a professor of political science at the University of Arkansas. "It won't surprise most folks to also see that those who are uninsured - only about 15 percent of our sample - are the most interested in change. The rest of us, apparently, are afraid of losing what we've got."

In the midst of debate about ways to change the U.S. health care system, 30 percent of Arkansans believe that, when it's all said and done, the quality of their health care will remain about the same. About 32 percent of uninsured Arkansans were more likely to believe things would stay the same, slightly more than compared with 29 percent of people who currently have insurance and believe things would stay the same.

About 27 percent of those without insurance and 13 percent of those with insurance believe things would be better after reform. Nearly half of the Arkansans with insurance (48 percent) believed a changed health care system would be worse, while 23 percent of the uninsured agreed with them.

The poll revealed apparent apathy toward next year's Senate race. When asked how closely they have followed news about the candidates running for the Democrat incumbent's seat, 75 percent of Arkansans reported not following too closely or not at all.

"While a few of us are making a lot of noise already about the 2010 U.S. Senate contest, the reality is that the vast majority of Arkansans are not yet paying attention," Parry said.

In response to the question about which candidate they would vote for if the election were held today, 41 percent of registered voters in the sample opted for the candidate of the Democratic Party, while 36 percent would vote for a Republican candidate.

A full summary report of the 2009 poll results and data from past Arkansas Polls are available at http://www.uark.edu/depts/plscinfo/partners/arkpoll.php.

The 2009 Arkansas Poll was sponsored by the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society at the University of Arkansas.