Latest Gallup Poll Finds Disconnect Between Paying, Delivering for US Healthcare

December 5, 2018

A new Gallup poll finds a split in beliefs in how Americans think about healthcare. The majority of respondents think the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that all Americans have health insurance, but at the same time, a majority is opposed to the notion of a “government-run” healthcare system.

A new Gallup poll finds a split in beliefs in how Americans think about healthcare. The majority of respondents think the federal government should be responsible for ensuring that all Americans have health insurance, but at the same time, a majority is opposed to the notion of a “government-run” healthcare system.

Gallup said its results show the challenges lawmakers face in trying to solve the problems in US healthcare.

According to the poll, 57% of Americans who agree that government should be responsible for everyone having healthcare is about the same as last year. The figure is as high as it has been since 2007. Prior to that, as many as 69% of Americans believed the government should ensure that all have healthcare.

Support for government responsibility for healthcare plummeted in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president on a healthcare platform, bottoming out at 42% in 2013.

Regarding the idea of a government-run healthcare system, 40% were in favor while 54% preferred a system based on private insurance. The proportion respondents favoring more government involvement in healthcare is currently down from last year's high of 47%. Gallup also said the percentage is more in line with results from previous years.

In the polling question, “Which of the following approaches for providing healthcare in the United States would you prefer—a government-run healthcare system, or a system based mostly on private health insurance?” the term “government-run”” was not further defined.

As is usually the case with healthcare polling, answers were more sharply divided by party affiliation. The overwhelming majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents—85% in this year’s results—think it is the government's responsibility to make sure everyone has healthcare coverage. Republicans and those who lean Republican who feel the same way was closer to 27%.

Asked about government-run healthcare, about two-thirds of Democrats endorse the concept, compared with 13% of Republicans.

Interestingly, the findings reflect the original idea of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—making sure that everyone has health coverage, while leaving delivery largely to private insurers. However, support for the ACA has been mixed since it was passed 8 years ago.

The divisions seen in the poll have been seen in other polls as well. For instance, polling from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation finds that Democrats want to protect the ACA, while Republicans continue to think it should be repealed.

Democrats have said they will make protecting the ACA a priority when they retake the House of Representatives in January. It is unlikely, however, that they will be likely to do much more than that, despite the promotion of a "Medicare for all" healthcare system by former Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, and other Democratic politicians, given the divided government.

The Gallup poll was based on telephone interviews conducted November 1 to 11, with a random sample of 1037 adults living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.