WASHINGTON (CNN) – The public option: It's a lighting rod in the current storm of health care reform. Federal lawmakers are split over whether such a government option should be included in any bill that comes out of Congress - and a new national poll indicates that Americans are equally divided.
Forty-seven percent of people questioned in an NBC News survey released Tuesday say they oppose a public or government option that would compete with private health insurers, with 43 percent supporting such an option. That 4 percent gap is bigger than the poll's sampling error.
The survey also suggests that Americans are split over whether a public option would help lower health care costs and provide insurance for many of the millions of Americans without coverage. Forty five percent agreed with that description but 48 percent said a public option would reduce access to their choice of doctors and limit their options for medical treatment.
"The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicates that views of the government versus private insurance companies is largely dirven by partisan views," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Two-thirds of Democrats say they want health care decisions to be made by the government rather than insurance companies. Two-thirds of Republicans prefer insurers to the government."
The NBC News poll was conducted August 15-17, with 805 adults questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report