Between 2000 and 2008, an average of 62% of Americans polled annually by Gallup said they thought that it was government’s responsibility to make sure that all Americans had health insurance coverage. Following Barack Obama’s election and the debate over responsibility for health insurance that resulted in the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) that percentage began to fall, reaching a low of 42% in 2013, the year before the ACA took effect.
Since 2014, the percentage of Americans who believe health insurance coverage is government’s responsibility has risen again, reaching 56% in Gallup’s most recent poll. That’s the highest level in 10 years.
To be clear, Gallup has asked only whether the government should be responsible for ensuring that Americans get health insurance coverage, not whether the government should provide the coverage. In its November poll, however, Gallup did ask if Americans favored a government-run health care system and 47% of respondents agreed while 48% said they favored a private health care system.
Gallup combined responses to its two questions this year and report that 40% of respondents want government both to take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have coverage and that government should run the health care system. Another 34% oppose any government role in health care and 13% said that government should assume responsibility but leave running the system to private firms. Gallup notes:
These attitudes can, in part, help explain why support for the ACA is just about at the majority level — and no higher. The ACA may not go far enough for some, while going too far for others.
Broken out by political party affiliation, 80% of Democrats say government should be responsible for health care, compared to 62% of independents and 17% of Republicans. For comparison purposes, in 2001 77% of Democrats favored government taking responsibility for health care, compared to 60% of independents and 44% of Republicans.
The idea that the government is responsible for making sure that all Americans have healthcare coverage has been at or above the majority level for all but five of the past 18 years. The low point in these attitudes came during the Obama administration as the ACA was being debated and enacted into law, and as it encountered initial problems with its rollout. More recently, however, support for the idea that the government should make sure Americans have healthcare coverage has climbed back to a majority level — even as Congress may eliminate the ACA’s individual insurance coverage mandate as part of new tax reform legislation.
The Gallup press release contains survey questions, responses and trends, along with a complete explanation of the methodology.