Gallup: Americans’ Mixed Views of Healthcare and Healthcare Reform

2 min
May 21, 2019


May 22, 2019

Proposals to reform the way in which Americans get healthcare have been a part of the political environment for decades, going back as far as the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Presidents as different as Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all tried to introduce major healthcare reforms, with only the latter making significant progress.

This year, many of the 23 Democratic presidential candidates are following the lead of Sen. Bernie Sanders in proposing a government-run healthcare system, and most of the others are pushing for some other type of major healthcare reform. Just as strongly, Republicans are attempting to dismantle the 2010 Affordable Care Act and promise a healthcare reform plan of their own.

Healthcare is clearly a complex and often mysterious part of most Americans’ lives, and public opinion on the issue reflects this underlying messiness and complexity. Americans have mixed views about almost all aspects of the healthcare system and clearly have not yet come to a firm collective judgment on suggested reforms.

Americans’ Reactions to Healthcare Reform Proposals

The data show no clear consensus on the part of the American public about instituting a fully government-run healthcare system. Survey questions have asked about the issue using a variety of different ways to explain the system, and the results reflect a public whose opinions defy easy categorization.

Gallup has for many years asked Americans to choose between “a government-run healthcare system” or “a system based mostly on private health insurance.” In our latest update, 40% chose the government-run system, and 54% the private one. A recent Quinnipiac poll found Americans were lukewarm when asked about the idea of “removing the current healthcare system and replacing it with a single-payer system, in which the federal government would expand Medicare to cover the medical expenses of every American citizen.” About as many were opposed as in favor.

In contrast, the Kaiser Family Foundation’s April healthcare tracking poll asked respondents about “a national health plan, sometimes called Medicare for All, in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan” and found essentially the opposite of Gallup’s “government-run healthcare system” results — 56% favor the Medicare for All plan in the Kaiser poll, compared with 38% opposed. (But Kaiser’s research has also found a significant diminution in support when respondents were reminded of certain consequences of a Medicare for All plan, including the possible need to eliminate private insurance companies.)