The Communications Workers of America are stepping up their battle against the excise tax on high-end insurance plans, favored strongly by the Obama Administration, by releasing a new poll showing strong opposition to the measure.

Voters across all five regions and 2010 frontline Senate states are strongly opposed to taxing high-cost health insurance plans as a way to help fund health insurance reform. Overall, 70% of voters oppose it, while at least 60% of voters in each region are opposed.

Voters are less likely to re-elect their member of Congress by a 41-point margin (63% less likely to 22% more likely) if they support an excise tax.

Across each region, opposition to taxing high-cost insurance plans is even higher among Independents, with 74% of these voters opposed to such a tax.

Voters clearly prefer to fund health insurance reform by raising taxes on the wealthy than by taxing high-cost plans, as they support taxing households making over a million a year (and individuals making over half a million a year), by a 12-point margin (54% to 42%). This was supported by a majority of voters in seven of the ten states surveyed, and by 49% in the remaining three.

A plurality of voters (49%) would be more likely to re-elect a member of Congress who supports raising taxes on the wealthy to help fund health insurance reform.

Obviously, calling it “taxing health care benefits” matters over calling it “the excise tax on high-end insurance plans,” but it’s not surprising that such a tax would be unpopular (FYI, the exact wording in the poll was “Would you favor or oppose placing a tax on high-cost health insurance plans as a way to help pay for health insurance reform,” which is pretty neutral). Obama the candidate campaigned against it, effectively, in 2008, when John McCain proposed eliminating the employer deduction entirely. They haven’t offered much public education to explain why they support it as a cost-containment measure. And organized labor, the most vocal supporters of reform, is strongly against it.

Crucially, the demographics of the poll are health care reform supporters. In the poll, 52% of those surveyed think the health care system “needs major reforms” or a “total overhaul,” and just 10% think it’s fine the way it is.

The CWA poll is just part of a stepped-up effort to block the excise tax. They’ve taken out ads in DC newspapers and will hold a rally on Capitol Hill today.

David Dayen

David Dayen