Poll: Majority of Americans support single-payer, heavy majority of Republicans oppose

Poll: Majority of Americans support single-payer, heavy majority of Republicans oppose

This comment by Reason’s Peter Suderman has given me nightmares for days, so plainly prescient is it about the future of the health-care debate. Today’s Republican ObamaCare-hater is tomorrow’s grudging ObamaCare defender!


Conservatism seeks to conserve individual liberty by limiting the size of government, right? Well, pretty soon the two choices before the public will be just what Suderman says. Which of those two options will require a larger federal government?

New from Quinnipiac:

Independents precisely mirror the overall population. Among Americans aged 18-34 support for single payer is 56/33, the most lopsided result among any age demographic. And “Medicare for all” isn’t the only statist health-care initiative that the public supports. Asked how they feel about reducing funding for Medicaid, they split 26/69, with even 52 percent of Republicans in opposition. A majority of the public also believes Democrats would do a better job handling health care, 56/29. Among independents it’s 53/27. The GOP’s spring and summer repeal follies have hurt the party badly.

It’s not all bad news, though. Look back at the single-payer numbers above and you’ll find Republicans solidly against the idea, 29/62. Not every poll taken this year has showed that degree of opposition on the right. When YouGov asked in April whether people favor or oppose “expanding Medicare to provide insurance to every American,” the public split 60/23 — with even a plurality of Republicans in favor (46/38). That was a shocking result, suggesting that the Overton window on health care had moved more dramatically this year than anyone realized. A second YouGov poll taken in June found a reversal, though — now just 27 percent of GOPers favored single-payer versus 63 percent who opposed. The (likely) difference: The second poll mentioned the need for tax hikes to pay for universal care while the first one didn’t. When you remind right-wingers that “free” government health care would be fantastically expensive, they sober up.

What’s interesting about this new Quinnipiac poll is that the question doesn’t mention taxes — yet Republican opinion is still decidedly negative on single-payer, a major swing from the first YouGov poll in April. I wonder why. Maybe the screaming headlines about what single-payer would cost in California have driven home the fiscal reality of a federal program to GOPers. Or maybe it’s a reaction to shifting Democratic rhetoric. Prominent Dems like Bernie Sanders are increasingly spending less time defending the merits of ObamaCare and more time pitching the merits of “Medicare for all.” The more single-payer is seen by rank-and-file GOPers as a pet project of the left, the more skeptical they’ll be of it. In that sense, it mirrors ObamaCare: As Democrats never tire of reminding Republicans, the individual mandate started as a conservative project in the last decade and was a linchpin of the Massachusetts law signed by Mitt Romney. Once it became a linchpin of Barack Obama’s plan too, it was anathema to the wider right. Single-payer may be following the same course, an idea that seems worth considering by many Republicans until they discover it’s the left’s dream program, at which point partisan nature takes its course.

One more number from the Quinnipiac poll:

Like single-payer, that’s another initiative where the inevitable fiscal reality is perfectly foreseeable and yet Americans seem intent on trying to defy gravity anyway. Sigh. Exit question: Why are Americans without a college degree (slightly) less likely to support a minimum wage hike than college grads? They’re the group that would benefit most from the policy.

Update: A fair point from a Twitter pal: What would happen to this “heavy majority” of Republicans opposed to single-payer if, hypothetically, Trump came out in favor of the idea? No worse than a 50/50 split among GOPers at that point, right?

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