Updated Oct 31, 2018

5. The voter divide on "Medicare for All"

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Data: Survey Monkey online poll conducted Oct. 24-26, 2018 among 2,949 U.S. adults. Total margin of error is ±2.5 percentage points. Modeled error estimates: African-American women ±8.0, age 18 to 34 ±5.0, White suburban women ±5.5, Never Hillary Independent voters ±10.0, Rural voters ±5.0, Republicans ±4.0, Democrats ±4.0, Independents ±7.0; Poll methodology; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Voters like some form of “Medicare for All” but are divided over what it should look like, according to our latest Axios/SurveyMonkey poll — which is about the same situation Democratic candidates are in.

The big picture: Many of Democrats’ leading 2020 prospects, and a host of candidates in the midterms, have embraced “Medicare for All,” but there’s a big variation in the policies they propose under that banner.

Between the lines: We asked our poll respondents two related questions — what they think candidates mean by “Medicare for All,” and what they want that policy to mean, if they support it at all.

By the numbers: Overall, 52% of those surveyed said they think “Medicare for All” refers to a single, government-run health care program covering everyone. That’s what Sen. Bernie Sanders, who popularized the term “Medicare for All,” has proposed.

  • Republicans were more confident in that assessment than Democrats: 61% of Republicans said "Medicare for All" is single-payer, compared with 51% of Democrats. A plurality of independents — 42% — said they don’t think candidates are talking about either single-payer or an optional program that would compete with private insurance.

Voters were more divided over what they want “Medicare for All” to be, given the same choices.

  • 34% said they would favor a single-payer system; 33% said they would prefer an optional public plan alongside private insurance; 30% wanted neither.
  • Democrats were far more open to a single-payer system than Republicans and independents.
  • Of the five voter subgroups Axios is following in the midterm elections, African-American women and young adults were most interested in some form of "Medicare for All," while rural voters were least interested.

Add it up, and most people — 67% — seem to be on board with either single-payer or a public option, suggesting that “Medicare for All” is popular, but that's partly because of its multiple meanings.

Yes, but: The 2020 Democratic primary will likely bring the issue into much sharper focus.

  • In the midterms, every Democrat can pick the definition that works best for their race. But with so many candidates running for the same office in 2020, putting a finer point on “Medicare for All” will be a big part of the larger Democratic debate.

Methodology: This analysis is based on SurveyMonkey online surveys conducted Oct. 24–26 among 2,949 adults in the United States. The modeled error estimate for the full sample is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. Sample sizes and modeled error estimates for the subgroups are as follows:

African-American Women (n=160 +/- 8%), Millennials Age 18–34  (n=619 +/- 5% ), White Suburban Women (n=585 +/- 5.5% ), NeverHillary/Independent voters  (n=150 +/- 10% ), Rural  (n=694 +/- 5% ). Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. More information about our methodology here. Crosstabs available here.

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