A Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos, in what I believe is the first national poll on the question, gauged public opinion on this. Respondents were asked whether the reform proposals under consideration would create "death panels" that would dictate medical care based on Americans' "productivity in society." Nearly three-fourths of the public (72%) said no, 11% said yes, and 17% weren't sure. But of greater interest were the partisan numbers.Republicans are deliberately being given incorrect information, and they're making no effort to challenge it. They don't believe it, and they continue to be duped by the astroturf efforts to elicit exactly this response.
Democrats and independents rejected the claim in large numbers, but here were the results for self-identified Republicans:
Not sure: 31%
There were similar results on related questions. Republicans, unlike Democrats and independents, also believe reform would "require elderly patients to meet with government officials to discuss 'end of life' options including euthanasia," and consider reform to be a government "takeover" of the health care system. Neither claim is true.
On a more comical note, Republicans were also far more likely to believe that Medicare is not a government program than anyone else. While only 7% of Democrats were confused about Medicare, the number of Republicans who believe Medicare isn't a government program was twice as high (14%).
But specifically on the "death panel" confusion, we're in the midst of a national debate in which a clear majority of rank-and-file Republicans either believe "death panels" are a serious proposal or aren't sure.
Why would they fight so hard against a reform plan that would help their families? Because they've been lied to so often, they actually think Democrats literally might start killing people.And they're ready to believe it too. They're shocked that America has rejected the Republican Party, and they're not taking it lying down.
They are taking the lies, however.