Single-payer health care is showing signs of increased popularity – and durability – among Democratic voters, whose support for the policy remains solid even when faced with the potential costs.
Asked in a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday whether they support a single-payer system, in which the federal government would expand Medicare to cover the medical expenses of every American citizen, nearly two in three Democratic voters (65%) said it was a “good idea.”
That result mostly fell in line with other recent surveys, which have shown increased backing among liberals and independents, with a slight upward trend across the board.
But the Quinnipiac poll pushed harder, incorporating another key detail into a subsequent question – the specter of a tax hike.
“Would you think that a single payer system is a good idea or a bad idea if it removed all health insurance premiums, but also increased your taxes?” the pollsters asked. With the added information, support dropped, but not as much as one might expect. Fifty-nine percent, just slightly down from 65%, still called it a “good idea.” (The number who said it was a “bad idea” increased from a quarter to a little more than a third.)
Health care has taken an increasingly prominent place in the American political debate over the past year, as Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration pushed to overhaul Obamacare. A Bloomberg poll conducted in July found that, for the first time in the history of the survey, Americans rated health care as the nation’s most pressing concern.
The left’s fight to protect Obamacare, which united a Democratic Party still reeling over its failures in 2016, further elevated the single-payer debate. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his allies have long portrayed it as a moral imperative. But the potential for broader buy-in grew over the summer and reached an unlikely milestone earlier this month when Sanders unveiled a new “Medicare for all” bill on Capitol Hill. Unlike its predecessor, which had zero cosponsors, the new legislation arrived with the support of a third of the Senate Democratic caucus – including potential 2020 presidential hopefuls like New York’s Kirstin Gillibrand and Kamala Harris of California.
Sanders’ bill, though dead on arrival in this Republican-controlled Congress, provided some new details about how he would go about transitioning from the current system to a universal, government-backed program. On the financial question, the legislation was less specific, offering a broad sketch of potential tax plans.
For some added context, consider how Republican voters in the Quinnipiac poll rated their own staple priorities. Single-payer fits comfortably alongside broadly popular GOP policies like Trump’s decision to leave the Paris climate deal (also at 59%).
More narrowly focused on health care, the survey found that only 45% of Republicans say they back the last version of the Republican health care plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Half of Republicans support a decrease in federal Medicaid spending. Meanwhile, an overwhelming 82% say they think Trump should support efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare in the most general terms.
Asked about single-payer, 61% called it a “bad idea.” Nearly a quarter said it was a good one. When new taxes were added into the equation, the opposition among Republicans spiked to 70%.
This Quinnipiac University poll was conducted from September 21-26, 2017 among 1,412 registered voters. The margin of sampling error is ±3.1 percentage points among the full sample; it is larger for subgroups like Democrats.