Majority of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers shy away from 'Medicare for All'

Barbara Rodriguez, Des Moines Register
Majority of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers shy away from 'Medicare for All'

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Likely Democratic caucusgoers are divided on what they want when it comes to health care, according to a new Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

The poll shows more than half of respondents prefer a plan other than "Medicare for All," underscoring conflicts over the best course of action on health care.

The poll finds 36% of likely caucusgoers support a Medicare for All plan that would eliminate private health insurance and cover everyone through a government-run health system similar to Medicare. Close to the same share, 34%, back creation of a public option, a health insurance program run by the government that people can choose to buy into.

Another 20% say they want to restore provisions lost from the Affordable Care Act and work incrementally from there. The 2010 law, known as Obamacare, expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans but has long been derided by Republicans.

The poll of 500 likely Democratic caucusgoers was conducted Nov. 8-13. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Health care has been a dominant topic in the 2020 presidential election cycle among Democrats. On the campaign trail, Iowa crowds ask more questions about health care than any other topic, and the candidates have discussed health care extensively during televised presidential debates.

Harmony Kennis, a poll respondent and 25-year-old waitress in Ames, said she supports improving the Affordable Care Act. But she also likes the idea of a Medicare for All plan that eliminates private insurance.

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Kennis names Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota as her first choice for president, and  Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont as her second choice. Klobuchar supports creating a public option, while Sanders backs Medicare for All.

“I really don’t know what the solution is,” Kennis said. “I’m really open to a solution that the majority of the American people can get behind.”

Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts both support Medicare for All. The poll shows 68% of Warren's supporters and 77% of Sanders' supporters prefer Medicare for All.

Andy Monphei, a poll respondent and 37-year-old software engineer in Jefferson, backs Medicare for All. He names Sanders as his first choice for president and Warren as his second choice.

“There just needs to be a safety net for everyone,” he said. “The other plans that I’ve heard … some people still might not be able to afford that. And I just don’t think that, being the richest country in the world, that should really be something that happens.”

Monphei said he feels like he understands the health care debate in the Democratic presidential race because he consumes "quite a bit" of news daily. He’s also talked several times with the Sanders campaign about Medicare for All.

“When people talk about improving the ACA, I don’t always know exactly what they mean, and I don’t really know how they think that’s going to help,” he said.

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Other top-polling candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, support a public option that keeps private insurance. Forty-eight percent of Buttigieg supporters and 42% of Biden supporters prefer a public option.

But nearly a quarter or more of their supporters favor making improvements to the Affordable Care Act (24% of Buttigieg's supporters and 29% of Biden's). Added together, 72% of Buttigieg supporters and 71% of Biden supporters opt for a choice other than Medicare for All.

The division among likely Democratic caucusgoers on health care policy relates to another split examined in the poll: whether they want their party's nominee to advocate for big changes or for more modest ones that have a better chance to pass.

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A majority of likely caucusgoers, 52%, say they would rather see the party's nominee advocate for proposals that have a good chance of becoming law, even if the changes aren't as big. That’s more than the 36% who prefer a candidate who will back big ideas, even if there is a lower chance they would become law.

Warren and Sanders have focused their campaigns on big changes, and majorities of their supporters want that from a nominee (58% of Warren supporters and 54% of Sanders supporters). Majorities of Biden supporters (60%) and Buttigieg supporters (62%) want changes that have a good chance of becoming law.

About this poll

The Iowa Poll, conducted November 8-13, 2019, for the Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 500 registered voters in Iowa who say they will definitely or probably attend the 2020 Democratic caucuses and 502 registered Republicans who are not planning to participate in the Democratic caucuses.

Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted 2,012 randomly selected active voters from the Iowa secretary of state’s voter registration list by telephone. The sample was supplemented with additional phone number lookups. Interviews were administered in English. Responses for all contacts were adjusted by age and congressional district to reflect their proportions among active voters in the list. For the registered Republican sample, responses for the 533 registered Republican contacts were adjusted by age and congressional district to reflect their proportions among active registered Republicans in the voter registration list.

Questions based on the sample of 500 voters likely to attend the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, as does the sample of 502 registered Republicans. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom is prohibited.

Read our methodology

Barbara Rodriguez covers health care and politics for the Register. She can be reached by email at bcrodriguez@registermedia.com or by phone at 515-284-8011. Follow her on Twitter @bcrodriguez.

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This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowa Poll: Majority pick health care other than 'Medicare for All'