Poll: Majority supports single-payer health care

Greg Nash

A slim majority of Americans support a single-payer health-care system that is funded and administrated by the government and eliminates private insurers, according to a new poll.

The latest Harvard-Harris Poll survey found 52 percent favor a single-payer system against 48 who oppose it. A strong majority of Democrats — 69 percent — back the idea. Republicans oppose single-payer, 65-35, and independents are split, with 51 percent opposing and 49 supporting.

“Given all of the discontent with health care and desire for coverage, single-payer has more support than I have seen in the past, with the country split down the middle,” said Harvard-Harris Poll co-director Mark Penn. “But health-care questions like this are before there has been a public debate on the costs and the effect of a single source for plans and we have often seen support disappear after that kind of debate.”


Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a “Medicare for all” bill earlier this year to much acclaim from the left.

But the bill has no chance of passing the GOP-controlled Congress and was greeted coolly by Democratic leadership and swing-state Democrats running for reelection in 2018. 

However, the bill attracted support from potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders, such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.). It was viewed by many on the left as a watershed moment for liberals.

When voters are told that Sanders and Warren are attached to the bill, 33 percent said they support it, 29 percent oppose and 38 said they didn’t have enough information to have an opinion. Knowing who is attached to the bill, most Republicans opposed it, most Democrats supported it and most independents said they didn’t know enough about it.

The best-polling aspect of single-payer is the public’s belief that it will cover more people. Sixty-nine percent said it would provide more coverage, including 54 percent of Republicans.

The public is largely split on every other question, with 51 percent saying the government should provide all health care and 49 saying it should only subsidize health care for the poor and elderly.

“Young people were most supportive of single-payer, while seniors, who use the most health care, reject it by a wide margin,” said Penn.

Fifty-one percent said the single-payer system will lead to runaway government spending and higher taxes, against 49 percent that said it would work out. Fifty-three percent said a single-payer system would restrict people’s choices in medical care.

Fifty-two percent said a government-run system would save the health-care system money, while 48 said it would be more expensive. 

Fifty-two percent said single-payer will improve the efficiency of the health-care system, and 53 percent said they believe they’d be able to keep their current doctor.

The Harvard-Harris Poll online survey of 2,177 registered voters was conducted from Sept. 17 to 20. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, 28 percent independent and 4 percent other.

The Harvard-Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Harvard Center for American Political Studies and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard-Harris Poll throughout 2017. 

Full poll results will be posted online later today. The Harvard–Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.

Tags Bernie Sanders Cory Booker Elizabeth Warren

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