It’s hard to say whether Luntz’s focus group-tested language succeeded in fomenting the dislike for health reform now registered by the pollsters. For months, polls showed that large segments of the public liked the idea of a public option, and still do. When I conducted a CJR Town Hall in Missouri earlier this year, several of the people I chatted with were upset that the reform law didn’t go far enough. One woman told me that the reform law “is pretty short from what I would have liked.”

And a few weeks ago I interviewed a Brooklyn businessman running a messenger and shipping service. We talked about how the reform law tax credit might help him. After expressing skepticism that it would help much, he blurted out: “I am disappointed that the administration has not taken the original package which included the public option. It most certainly would have kept prices down so we would not have had the price increases now running amok.” What a surprising comment from a business guy, I thought.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.