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Public split on Medicare before it passed, too

March 17, 2010

Ezra Klein with the Washington Post posted today about polling numbers in the 1960s when the proposal to create Medicare was on the table.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman is seated at the table with President Johnson. The following are in the background (from left to right): Senator Edward V. Long, an unidentified man, Lady Bird Johnson, Senator Mike Mansfield, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Bess Truman. (White House Press Office photo)

In 1962, three years before Medicare would be passed, a Gallup Poll found the following, according to the Post

A July 1962 Gallup poll found mixed feelings about President John F. Kennedy‘s proposal, 28 percent said they held generally favorable views of his plan, 24 percent were generally unfavorable, and a sizable plurality (33 percent) said they didn’t have an opinion on it or hadn’t heard about the plan. A month later, after Congress had rejected Kennedy’s proposal, an Opinion Research Corporation poll found 44 percent said the plan should have passed, while 37 percent felt Congress did the right thing.

The division over whether Medicare was the right route remained after President¬†Lyndon Johnson‘s election two years later. More from the Post –

Following Pres. Lyndon Johnson’s election, Americans remained somewhat divided on the plan, with 46 percent telling Harris pollsters in Feb. 1965 that they’d prefer “a Federal law which would provide medical care for the aged by a special tax, like Social Security” and 36 percent more inclined to support “a plan of expanded private health insurance.” Then, as now, Democrats were more apt to favor the government option (58 percent) than were Republicans (27 percent).

Asked another way, 62 percent said they favored “President Johnson’s program of medical care for the aged under Social Security.” A smaller majority, 56 percent, backed the American Medical Association’s alternative plan, which would have “everyone who could afford it covered by private health insurance” and “those who couldn’t afford it …covered under a government health plan.”

Assessing these conflicting views, pollster Louis Harris concluded, “So deep is the concern about medical care for the aged that the American people would welcome any of a variety of national plans.”

It’s an interesting perspective given the current health care reform debate which has the country largely divided over what’s being proposed in Washington.

As Democrats decide how they will cast their votes or whether they will lend their support, many are certainly trying to read the tea leaves of polling to see how their vote will affect their prospects for re-election in November. Some say a “nay” vote would be even more damaging than voting for the health care reform bill, while others are targeting those who support the measure.

Hopefully elected leaders are looking beyond the next election in deciding where they stand. If these polling numbers from the 1960s are any indication, relying on the shifting winds of current public opinion is not the best way to formulate long-term policy.

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One Comment
  1. December 1, 2010 5:50 pm

    health plans may be expensive but it is really very necessary to get one for yourself ‘-‘

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