Gallup: 'Support for Government-Run Health System Edges Up'

By Frank Newport
Gallup News, December 1, 2017

Americans' preferences for a government-run healthcare system versus a system based on private insurance are now divided. This marks a significant shift in attitudes from earlier this decade, when Americans consistently preferred the private insurance option.

Since 2010, Gallup updates have shown as much as a 27-percentage-point gap in favor of the private insurance system versus one run by the government. That gap shrank to 10 points last year and essentially disappeared in this year's survey, conducted Nov. 2-8, with 48% preferring the private health insurance system and 47% preferring the government-run system.

Two-thirds of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic favor a government-run system. Three-quarters of Republicans and independents who lean Republican favor a system based on private insurance.

Predictable and Large Partisan Gap in Views on Government-Run Versus Private Insurance-Based Health System

Favor government-run system
22% - Republicans/Leaners
67% - Democrats/Leaners

Favor system based on private insurance
76% - Republicans/Leaners
29% - Democrats/Leaners

Although the 22% of Republicans who support a government-run system is low on an absolute basis, it is the highest in Gallup's seven-year trend. Republicans' shift in attitudes accounts for most of the overall increase in support for the government system in this year's update.

Majority Doesn't Know Enough to Have Opinion on "Medicare for All," Single-Payer Health System

Question asked: As you may know, some senators have proposed a "Medicare-for-all," single-payer health insurance program that would be administered by the federal government and financed through taxes. Please tell me if you favor or oppose this proposal, or if you don't know enough to say?

17% - Favor
21% - Oppose
61% - Don't know enough to say



By Don McCanne, M.D.

Although other polls suggest that there is about 60 percent support for single payer, the wording of this Gallup poll indicates that the nation is split between its preference for a "government-run system" versus a "system based on private insurance." This is consistent with trends in other polls since it represents a significant shift in the results of Gallup polls away from a clear preference for private insurance to a point now where opinion is evenly divided (with this specific wording).

An important observation is that most of the change is due to an increase in support amongst Republicans and those leaning Republican, even though still a distinct minority. We should keep in mind that Republicans and independents need to be a targeted audience for the single payer message.

Another important result is that 61 percent of those polled "don't know enough to say" whether they favor or oppose "a 'Medicare-for-all,' single-payer health insurance program that would be administered by the federal government and financed through taxes" that "some senators have proposed." Although this may reflect the fact that people have not heard enough about the Sanders bill specifically, it does suggest that we have to make a greater effort to see that "single payer" becomes a meme that everyone understands and automatically supports.

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