Summer Concerns

July 23, 2020

Photo by Winniepix licensed under CC BY 2.0

Five months into the global pandemic and with just over 100 days before the general election, we check in with the latest polling on how voters are feeling about health care in the U.S.

Listen to the full episode below, read the transcript and scroll down for more information.

Click here for more of our coronavirus coverage.

How the Public Feels About Health Care Right Now in 5 Charts

We last talked to Kaiser Family Foundation pollster Ashley Kirzinger in early February about the role health care was likely to play in the 2020 election. Then the pandemic hit.

Ashley and her colleagues have completed seven polls since late February measuring people’s thoughts on health care and the pandemic, with the latest coming out on July 23. Below are five charts that capture how the public is feeling about health care in this moment.

1. Little Change on Major Health Policy Divisions

“If there was anything that was going to shift public opinion towards expanding coverage and moving us away from an employer sponsored system, this would be it,” Ashley said of the pandemic.

But their polls over the course of the last several months show little change in people’s attitudes toward Medicare for All, a public option and the Affordable Care Act, with partisan divides remaining strong.

2. There Might Be Some Movement on Medicaid

The one place where KFF’s polling has detected some changing views is around Medicaid. One-third of people say that they or someone they live with will likely need Medicaid in the next year, and two-thirds of people living in states that have not expanded Medicaid say they support expansion, up from 61% in February 2020 and just 51% in July 2018.

It’s hard to determine causality,” Ashley said of the change in support, “but it makes sense that as more people have to rely on Medicaid for health coverage that we would see more people having favorable views of the program.”

3. Concern Over School Reopening

Sixty percent of parents with kids in school would prefer to wait until the risk of coronavirus transmission is much lower before restarting in-person instruction, including 76% of parents of color.

More than two-thirds of parents and the public at-large say that schools in their area need more resources to safely reopen, and 55% believe additional funding to support schools should be a top priority for Congress.

4. People Want Congress To Do More

Almost half of the public rated the federal government’s response to the pandemic so far as “poor.”

Seventy-two percent of the public say increasing federal funding for testing, contact tracing and personal protective equipment should be a top priority for Congress, with less and more politically divided support for other measures.

“Very few when we ask about this list of priorities, say that this shouldn’t be done at all,” Ashley said. “So they’re just looking for action from Congress and their federal government.”

5. Pessimism and Mental Health Toll is Getting Worse

“What is becoming increasingly clear is the surge in cases, the pushes to reopen both businesses and schools, is having a direct negative impact on the public’s mental health,” Ashley said.

After months of plateauing rates of optimism around the pandemic, 60% now say the worst is yet to come, up 10 percentage points from May. Fifty-three percent say they’ve experienced negative mental health impacts from the pandemic, up 14 percentage points from May. 

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Episode Resources

Relevant Kaiser Family Foundation Polling:

July 2020 Tracking Poll

Health Tracking Poll Archive

Interactives: Tracking Public Opinion on a National Health Plan and the Affordable Care Act

Other Select Research and Reporting:

Older Children Spread the Coronavirus Just as Much as Adults, Large Study Finds (Apoorva Mandavilli, New York Times, 7/18/2020)

Lawmakers Are Far Apart On A New Coronavirus Relief Bill. Here Are 5 Sticking Points (Deirdre Walsh and Domenico Montinaro, NPR, 7/21/2020)

How States Are Facilitating Medicaid Enrollment During COVID-19—And How They Can Do Even More (Rebecca Landucci, Jennifer E. Moore, Clare C. Brown, Caroline E. Adams, Nicole Truhe and Mark Larson; Health Affairs; 6/17/2020)

Episode Credits


Ashley Kirzinger, Associate Director of Public Opinion and Survey Research, Kaiser Family Foundation

Music composed by Ty Citerman, with additional music from Blue Dot Sessions

This episode was produced and mixed by Ryan Levi.

Additional thanks to:

Nancy Clark, Clayton McCook, William Shelley, Pamela Blair, Tamika Wright, Alicia La Freniere, John Niepoetter, Larry Gilman, Jessie Cromah, Renoalda Scott, Tramel Wilson, Caleb Smith, Geraldine Stockwell, Stirling Sahs, Keshia Burney, Lamar Davis, the Tradeoffs Advisory Board…

…and our stellar staff!