Poll: Plurality of Americans supports single-payer health care, but...

This caught my attention not only for the topline result but because it makes for a fascinating contrast with a similar — but not quite identical — poll taken by the same company, YouGov, back in April. Here’s what YouGov found two months ago when it asked “Do you favor or oppose expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American?”

That result made waves at the time, both because of the overall share of the population in favor and the share of Republicans who agreed. Sixty percent of Americans were ready for Medicare for all? And a plurality of GOPers (46/38) were with them? That number prompted me to declare the end of movement conservatism when I blogged about it. What’s left of the right when even Republicans want Washington in charge of Americans’ health coverage?

But wait. Here’s what YouGov found in its latest poll, conducted just a few days ago:

Suddenly only 44 percent of the public is in favor and Republicans are opposed by an almost two-to-one margin, 27/53. What happened to make public opinion shift so suddenly against single-payer?

Actually, nothing. The key difference in the polls, I think, is the phrasing of the question. In the more recent poll, instead of asking about “expanding Medicare,” YouGov asked, “Do you favor or oppose creating a single-payer health-care system, in which all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan that is financed by taxes?” If you’re a liberal, maybe the lesson you take away from that is that the public is far more comfortable with expanding a system they already know and trust than they are with “creating” a new one from scratch. If you’re a conservative, undoubtedly the lesson you take away is how important it is to emphasize that single-payer will be paid for with tax hikes. Toss the T-word into the question and suddenly Republicans get very nervous about government health insurance. Independents are themselves sufficiently lukewarm that support can’t quite crack 40 percent. It seems bizarre to think that Americans might not consider how a program like Medicare is funded unless you prompt them by mentioning taxes explicitly, but never underestimate the ignorance of the low-information voter. Everyone favors Uncle Sam paying for health care until you remind them who pays Uncle Sam.

Just to show you where Democrats are headed on this issue, though, here’s “moderate” midwestern Democrat Tim Ryan, who challenged Pelosi for the leadership of the caucus late last year, giving thumbs up to a government takeover of health insurance.

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