The present paper concerns the criteria people would prefer for prioritising health programmes. It differs from most empirical studies as subjects were not asked about their personal preferences for programmes per se. Rather, they were asked about the principles that should guide the choice of programmes. Four different principles were framed as arguments for alternative programmes. The results from population surveys in Australia and Norway suggest that people are least supportive of the principle that decision makers should follow the stated preferences of the public. Rather, respondents expressed more support for decisions based upon health maximisation, equality and urgency.