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Poll finds Americans split by political party over views on socialized medicine
Date:2/14/2008

During the course of the presidential nomination campaign, some candidates health care plans have been described as socialized medicine. Historically, the phrase socialized medicine has been used to attack health reform proposals in the U.S. However, a new poll by the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Harris Interactive finds that Americans are split on whether a socialized medical system would be better or worse than the current system. Among those who say they have at least some understanding of the phrase (82%), a plurality (45%) says such a system would be better while 39 percent say it would be worse. Twelve percent say they do not know and four percent say about the same.

The poll shows striking differences by party identification. Seventy percent of Republicans say that socialized medicine would be worse than our current system. The same percentage of Democrats (70%) say that a socialized medical system would be better than our current system. Independents are more evenly split with 43% saying socialized medicine would be better and 38% worse.

These results suggest how polarizing the issue of health care will be in the general election, says Robert J. Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. The phrase socialized medicine really resonates as a pejorative with Republicans. However, that so many Democrats believe that socialized medicine would be an improvement is an indication of their dissatisfaction with our current system. Independents, who are the key swing group in this election, are split like the country as a whole.

Although a majority of Americans say they understand the phrase socialized medicine (34% very well, 33% somewhat well), about one in three are uncertain what it means (15% not very well, 15% not at all). When offered descriptions of what such a system could mean, only one-third (32%) feel that soci
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Contact: Todd Datz
tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-3952
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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