One in five Democratic primary voters (21%) in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll claim that healthcare is their most important issue (though slightly more – 25 percent – say their biggest issue is the environment). Democratic voters support all types of health care reform: two in three favor Medicare for All, and about the same percentage support a public option. Half of Democratic primary voters would eliminate all private insurance in order to do this.
Democratic voters are different from the public overall, which is at best lukewarm towards the two reforms, and clearly opposed to having no private insurance option. Among the fifth of Democratic voters that care the most about healthcare as an issue, there is even more support for each reform: three-quarters favor Medicare for All and a public option; by two to one (57% to 27%) those most concerned about healthcare would be willing to lose private health insurance to bring about a reformed government system.
One clear distinction between Democrats and the overall public is that Democrats overwhelmingly want change, while the public overall and especially Republicans are much less sure. Americans agree with Democratic voters that providing a public option is preferable to eliminating private insurance completely, but Republicans are just as likely to favor no change at all as they are to support a public option.
Only 9 percent of Republicans say healthcare is their most important issue. More than twice that percentage of Republicans name the economy or immigration (and just 2 percent of Republicans cite the environment).
For Democratic voters, the specifics of candidate healthcare plans are beginning to affect candidate choice, with differences between voters who opt for the elimination of private insurance and those who don’t.
Those who would choose to end private insurance are more likely to support two candidates who explicitly have taken that position: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Those who prefer having a public option (like Medicare for All) as a possible choice along with private insurance are more likely to support former Vice President Joe Biden – as well as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. However, just about as many Democratic voters in this group favor Warren as support Buttigieg.
One reason health care may not be even more important in voters’ current choices is that 64 percent of Democratic voters say it is more important to have a nominee who can defeat President Donald Trump than to have a nominee who agrees with their own positions on major issues. Consequently, some Democratic voters are supporting candidates whose health care plans they may not agree with.