As 2020 Race Revs Up, CNN Asks Americans About Health Care

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Map of the United States made up of blue and red question marks

With the 2020 presidential race now underway, health care is one of the top concerns of American voters. At the first Democratic primary debate, held on June 26 and 27 in Miami, many of the 20 candidates addressed health care with various plans, goals, and ideas. Immediately following that event, CNN polled a nationally representative sample of 1,613 adults. The survey offers a snapshot of public attitudes (PDF) about health policy related to coverage. Here are some highlights:

National Health Insurance Program

When asked whether the US government should provide a national health insurance program for all Americans even if it results in higher taxes, 56% of respondents said it should, while 40% said it shouldn’t.

Essential Coverage

That split hasn’t shifted much since the same question was asked in January. However, support has waxed and waned over the years: In 1991, 67% supported a national health insurance program, dropping to 55% in 1995 and rising to 64% in 2007.

Not surprisingly, there was a significant divide among self-described Democrats, Independents, and Republicans on this question. A majority of Democrats (87%) and Independents (56%) were in favor of a national health insurance program for all Americans, while only 20% of Republicans supported it. Younger adults were also more likely to approve of a national health insurance program: 65% of respondents under the age of 45 approved, while 50% of respondents age 45 and over approved.

Replacing Private Insurance

The 807 survey respondents who said they support a national health insurance plan for all Americans were asked whether it should completely replace private health insurance. The survey found 37% said it should, while 57% said it should not. That is a slight drop in support for ending private insurance compared with six months ago.

Among all 1,613 adults who participated in the poll, “just 21% say they favor national health insurance and that it should completely replace private health insurance. Among potential Democratic voters, just 30% feel that way,” wrote CNN Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta.

Understanding “Medicare for All”

The concept of “Medicare for All” has received a great deal of attention in the media and on the campaign trail. Despite that interest, there may not be any broad, shared understanding of precisely what the term means and how it would work. CNN asked survey participants how well they understand what presidential candidates mean when they use the term “Medicare for All.” A total of 74% of respondents said they understand what the candidates mean “very well” or “somewhat well,” while 24% said “not too well” or “not at all well.”

For a primer on some of the Democratic plans for expanding health care — how they work and what they encompass — see Sarah Kliff and Dylan Scott’s comprehensive piece in Vox.

The CNN Poll (PDF) was conducted by SSRS from June 28 to 30 among a random national sample of adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. For the subsample of 656 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who are registered to vote, the margin of error is 4.7 points.

Did any of the poll results surprise you? Tweet at me with #EssentialCoverage or email me.