Talk Business, partnering with Hendrix College, is out with a new poll showing support for the so-called “private option,” the unique Arkansas plan to use Medicaid funds to buy private health insurance plans for low-income Arkansans. Here is the question and the results from the statewide poll of 520 likely Arkansas voters: 

Q. Last year, the legislature passed a law allowing Arkansas to spend federal Medicaid dollars to provide private insurance to low-income Arkansans through health care exchanges. In the upcoming meeting of the legislature, lawmakers will be asked to continue that program or not. Should the legislature vote to continue this “private option” after this current year?

47.5% Private Option Should Continue
32.5% Private Option Should End
20% Don’t Know

That big block of undecideds is a reminder that most folks in the state are not following this debate as closely as we are on this blog, and that is unlikely to change soon. 


Obviously a lot of this is about framing. The poll didn’t mention the Affordable Care Act or the word “Obamacare.” That big grain of salt taken, the poll seems to show broad support among the public for the Arkansas third-way approach — a more privatized version of healthcare expansion in response to the ACA — just as there is in the Arkansas General Assembly. 

That said, a small minority of state Senators or House members can block the appropriation in the fiscal session, which needs a three-fourths supermajority (Missy Irvin’s flip leaves the Senate one vote short as it stands today). Will polls like this influence swing voters in the legislature? Same mantra: it’s going to be a long few months.  


Talk Business editor Roby Brock‘s take:

The spread between those who think the private option should continue versus those who think it should end is considerable. With votes wavering or apparently peeling off of support in the legislature, these numbers present a different viewpoint from the public’s perception.

The poll also looked at abortion and gay marriage: 


Q. Do you favor laws that would make it more difficult to get an abortion, favor laws that would make it easier to get an abortion or should no change be made to existing abortion laws?

55% Make It More Difficult
23% Make It Easier
20% No Change
2% Don’t Know

Q. Which of the following policy positions most closely resembles your own view regarding relationships between two people of the same sex?

21.5% Gay couples should be allowed to legally marry
24% Gay couples should be allowed to form civil unions or domestic partnerships, but not legally marry
50% There should be no legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship
4.5% Don’t know