A new poll found the aggressive Medicare for All plan Bernie Sanders has championed is getting less popular as time goes on

Joseph Zeballos-Roig
Bernie Sanders

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images


  • Support is declining for the healthcare reform plan that Sen. Bernie Sanders has championed, according to a new poll.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think-tank, found that backing for Medicare for All — a universal healthcare system that would virtually eliminate private insurance — narrowed more in the last month with 51% of the public favoring it and 47% opposing it.
  • It's the closest gap measured since 2017, Kaiser noted.
  • The decline of support among Democrats this month suggests that repeated attacks from moderate candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden over its substantial cost and ongoing concerns of ending private insurance may be whittling down support for Medicare for All.
  • Over the summer, many 2020 Democratic candidates rhetorically toned down their support for the drastic health reform plan as Democratic voters signaled they were concerned about ending private insurance.
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Support is declining for the healthcare reform plan that Sen. Bernie Sanders has championed, according to a new poll. The data comes ahead of Tuesday's CNN and New York Times Democratic primary debate, where healthcare is expected to remain a fierce point of conflict dividing the party's progressive and moderate wings.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think-tank, found that backing for Medicare for All — a universal healthcare system that would virtually eliminate private insurance — narrowed more in the last month with 51% of the public favoring it and 47% opposing it. It's the closest gap measured since 2017, Kaiser said.

The poll also found:

  • There is still a partisan divide around Medicare for All with 71% of Democrats favoring it compared to 38% of Republicans.
  • Support for the public option under which people could choose to buy a government insurance plan through a Medicare-like system has increased to 73% among the public.
  • Around 58% of Republican respondents support the public option, a 17-point jump from their September poll. This is the first time a majority of Republicans backed it in the Kaiser poll, so its unclear whether this surprising level of support bears out in future polling.
Kaiser Family Foundation Figure 2 Support for Medicare for all Has Narrowed Over Time

Kaiser Family Foundation

In September, around 77% of Democrats in Kaiser polling supported the idea of Medicare for All. The eight-point decline this month suggests that repeated attacks from moderate candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden over its substantial cost and ongoing concerns of ending private insurance may be whittling down support for Medicare for All.

Read more: Democrats are clashing over how to fix US health care. Here are the 7 key terms you need to know.

Over the summer, many 2020 Democratic candidates rhetorically toned down their support for the drastic health reform plan as Democratic voters signaled they were troubled about ending private insurance. Backing for the plan has dropped when Americans learn more of the details filling in one of the biggest proposed changes to the nation's healthcare system in decades, the Washington Post reported.

Sen. Kamala Harris embodied the turnaround, as she rolled out a health plan keeping private insurance with strict government rules despite being a co-sponsor of the Medicare for All Senate legislation. That move drew massive criticism from progressives.

Read more: The 4 Democratic presidential candidates who cosponsored Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All Senate bill either no longer support it or won't say if they do

Sanders has long advocated for Medicare for All, a signature issue he thrusted towards the political mainstream during his insurgent primary run in 2016. He's said his plan would raise taxes, but would lower overall healthcare costs.

And Sen. Elizabeth Warren embraced the plan with similar fervor, but said at a recent New Hampshire town hall that Medicare for All is "a framework" that "doesn't have the details," according to The Wall Street Journal. She's facing mounting scrutiny on how she would ultimately pay for the proposal, which health policy experts say almost certainly requires a tax hike.

It spells possible problems for progressives pushing for Medicare for All. A more moderate approach like a public option that competes with private insurance plans is gaining traction among the public. If that trend continues to hold up, Sanders may face trouble on the campaign trail.

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