Over the last year, Medicare for All has grown in popularity among Democrats. Once a fringe policy supported by only those on the farthest fringe of liberal politics, the plan has grown into an issue that leading presidential are embracing wholeheartedly. Whether it’s a winning issue is still in question, however.
A recent analysis by Alan Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball suggests that the $34 trillion plan is, in fact, an albatross around the neck for Democrats running for the U.S. House of Representatives. The study, which compares the performance of 2018 Democratic House candidates that supported Medicare for All versus those who did not, shows that opponents of the proposal won their election at a higher rate.
The full analysis can be found here but we’ve highlighted the major points below:
According to a survey by National Nurses United, 51% (219 of 429 districts included in the survey) of Democratic House candidates endorsed a version of Medicare for All in 2018. Abramowitz broke down the candidates supporting the proposal by their district’s partisanship, which “shows 73% of Democratic candidates in districts that Hillary Clinton won by a margin of at least 20 points supported Medicare for All.” However, the data also shows that the lowest level of support for the policy was not in strongly Republican districts but in districts that voted narrowly for Donald Trump in 2016. As Abramowitz notes, “These findings suggest that Democratic candidates were least likely to support Medicare for All in marginally Republican districts where it could reduce their chances of winning.”
Abramowitz then broke down the outcomes of the House elections in competitive and open seats based on where the Democratic candidate stood on Medicare for all:
The evidence suggests Medicare for All was a losing issue in theses swing districts. Indeed, of the 60 seats considered to be in play, “Democratic candidates supporting Medicare for All did substantially worse than those who did not — winning only 45% of their races compared with 72% for the non-supporters.”
Even when accounting for variables like the 2016 presidential margin, incumbency advantages, and campaign spending, Abramowitz still found the same results to be true: Medicare for All may play well among the Democratic base, but it still faces an uphill battle in more moderate districts.