Study: More than 50% of Americans want Biden to prioritize Medicare For All over student loan forgiveness, marijuana legalization

Findings 1 51% of Americans prefer a Medicare for All system, while 1/3 prefer student loan forgiveness 2 Nearly 60% of Americans choose Medicare-for-All over a free public college system 3 1 in 4 of Americans would rather have legalized marijuana than Medicare-for-All 4 39% of respondents ages 35-44 years old said they would prefer […]

Findings

  • 1 51% of Americans prefer a Medicare for All system, while 1/3 prefer student loan forgiveness
  • 2 Nearly 60% of Americans choose Medicare-for-All over a free public college system
  • 3 1 in 4 of Americans would rather have legalized marijuana than Medicare-for-All
  • 4 39% of respondents ages 35-44 years old said they would prefer Medicare-for-All, compared to 31% of people in the same age group who would rather have a free public college system.

Following his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr. faces a number of unprecedented challenges, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis. 

However, there are also multiple opportunities for major policy shifts that could impact millions of Americans. One key policy that some politicians and private citizens alike have long been advocating for is a Medicare-for-All system. While there are actually several different proposals on the table, at its core, Medicare-for-All would establish a government-run, single-payer, health care program that would cover all Americans. It is modeled on Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older, and certain younger people with disabilities or End-Stage Renal Disease.

Meanwhile, other popular possible policy changes include establishing a free public university system in the U.S.; forgiving the country’s collective $1.7 trillion in student loan debt; legalizing marijuana at the federal level, and establishing a national holiday on the Monday after the Super Bowl.

While it remains to be seen what action the Biden administration takes on these policies, we wanted to know what initiatives are most important to the American people. Therefore, MedicareAdvantagePlans.org, in partnership with online survey platform Pollfish, conducted a survey of 1000 Americans ages 18 to 54 and older, asking them a series of questions about what they would rather see President Biden do – establish a Medicare-for-All system, or take action on another proposed policy change. 

Key Findings

According to our survey, Medicare for All is an exceptionally popular proposal. Regardless of the options given, in all instances, more than half of the survey respondents expressed a preference for Medicare for All over the other proposal. Here is what we found: 

  • When asked if they would rather President Biden establish a Medicare-for-All system, or designate the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday a national holiday:
    • 74% of respondents chose Medicare-for-All
    • 14% chose a Super Bowl national holiday
    • 12% weren’t sure or did not respond
  • When asked if they would prefer a Medicare-for-All system or federal legalization of marijuana:
    • 62% of respondents chose Medicare-for-All
    • 25% chose marijuana legalization
    • 13% weren’t sure or did not respond
  • When asked if they would prefer Medicare-for-All or a free public university system:
    • 58% of respondents chose Medicare-for-All
    • 20% chose a free public university system
    • 22% weren’t sure or did not respond

51% of Americans prefer a Medicare for All system, while 1/3 prefer student loan forgiveness

The closest margin was when people were asked if they would rather have Medicare-for-All, or student loan forgiveness; 51% of respondents chose Medicare-for-All, while 32% said they would rather have all of the nation’s student loan debt forgiven. Seventeen percent of respondents said they weren’t sure or preferred not to answer. 

There are currently about 45 million Americans who have active student loan debt totaling nearly $1.7 trillion. The majority of borrowers, 29 million people, are between the ages of 25 and 49. Our survey found that student loan forgiveness was more popular among 25-34 year olds, with one-quarter of this group indicating their preference for this initiative, versus 17% who preferred Medicare-for-All. Among 35-44 year olds, the preferences were practically equal; 36% preferred Medicare-for-All, while 37% of people in this group preferred student loan forgiveness. Nearly half of respondents who are 54 and older, 46%, and more than one-quarter, 26%, of those ages 35-44, said they weren’t sure of their preference, or didn’t answer.

For 18-24-year olds, both proposals had roughly equal support, with 6% of respondents in this age group saying they preferred Medicare For All, and 5% saying they preferred student loan forgiveness. However, 25% of respondents ages 54 and older supported Medicare-for-All, while only 17% of this age group preferred student loan forgiveness. 

Individuals whose highest level of education is a high school diploma were more likely to favor Medicare-for-All; 28% of these respondents said they preferred this initiative, compared to 18% who said they preferred student loan forgiveness. However, among those with a college education, the preferences were more evenly split. Thirty-two percent of individuals who preferred Medicare-for-All have a 2- or 4-year degree, and 31% have a postgraduate degree. By comparison, among those who prefer student loan forgiveness, 36% have a 2- or 4-year degree, and 34% have a postgraduate degree. 

Those in a lower income bracket favored Medicare-for-All slightly more than student loan forgiveness. Among those who preferred Medicare-for-All, 19% earn less than $25,000 per year, while only 12% of respondents who preferred student loan forgiveness earn less than $25,000 annually. 

Nearly 60% of Americans choose Medicare-for-All over a free public college system

Despite the significant levels of student loan debt Americans hold, when asked if they would prefer a free college system, in which all public colleges and universities in the U.S. are free, or have Medicare-for-All, survey respondents chose Medicare-for-All at a rate of nearly three-to-one. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed chose Medicare-for-All, compared to 20% who said they would prefer a free college system, and 22% who did not state a preference.

More young adults between the ages of 18-34 said they favor a free college system over Medicare-for-All. Seven percent of 18-24 year-olds, and 26% of 25-34 year-olds, voiced this preference, compared to 5% of 18-24 year-olds, and 18% of 25-34 year-olds who said they would rather President Biden establish a Medicare-for-All plan. Meanwhile, 39% of respondents ages 35-44 years old said they would prefer Medicare-for-All, compared to 31% of people in the same age group who would rather have a free public college system.

Current students were evenly split on their preferences; 3% of respondents in this group said they would prefer Medicare-for-All, and 3% said they would prefer a free college system. Among those who have completed their education, 38% of respondents with a 2- or 4-year degree favored a free college system, compared to 31% of people in this group who preferred Medicare-for-All. However, among individuals whose highest level of education is high school, 28% said they would prefer to have Medicare-for-All, while 17% expressed a preference for a free public college system.

1 in 4 of Americans would rather have legalized marijuana than Medicare-for-All

When asked whether they would prefer Medicare-for-All or federal legalization of marijuana, the overall majority of respondents, 62%, expressed a preference for Medicare-for-All. However, a sizable number of respondents, 25%, said they would rather President Biden legalize marijuana at the federal level. This comes at a time when all but six states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, creating a nationwide patchwork of marijuana laws. 

Individuals with higher levels of education tended to favor Medicare-for-All by slightly higher margins than marijuana legalization. Thirty-four percent of respondents with a 2- or 4-year degree, as well as 34% of those with a postgraduate degree, said they would prefer a Medicare-for-All system, compared to 31% of respondents with a 2- or 4-year degree, and 25% of respondents with a postgraduate degree, who would prefer to see marijuana legalized. Thirty percent of high school graduates expressed a preference for legalized marijuana, compared to 22% of high school graduates who favored Medicare-for-All. 

More older Americans and retirees expressed a preference for legalized marijuana over Medicare-for-All. Twenty-six percent of respondents ages 54 and older said they would rather have legalized marijuana, compared to 22% who said they would prefer Medicare-for-All. 

The margins were closer for younger adults; 6% of 18-24 year-olds indicated a preference for Medicare-for-All, compared to 4% who would rather President Biden make marijuana legal at the federal level.

Among retirees, 13% of people in this demographic are in favor of legalized marijuana, while 8% would prefer Medicare-for-All. For those who are currently employed, the margins were reversed; 69% of respondents who are currently working said they would prefer Medicare-for-All, while 64% of respondents in this group have a preference for legalized marijuana. 

Methodology

The data from this report comes from an online survey administered by online survey platform Pollfish. The survey was created and paid for by MedicareAdvantagePlans.org. In total, 1000 Americans ages 18 to 54 and older were surveyed on the questions in this report. This survey was conducted from January 16-17, 2021.

Survey Results

As President of the United States, would you rather see Joe Biden implement a Medicare for All system (where all healthcare is free & paid for by the federal government) or a free college system (where all public U.S. colleges and universities are free)?

  • Medicare-for-All system (58%)
  • Free college system (20%)
  • Not sure/I’d rather not say (22%)

As President of the United States, would you rather see Joe Biden implement a Medicare for All system (where all healthcare is free & paid for by the federal government) or forgive all of the nation’s $1.7 trillion student loan debt?

  • Medicare-for-All system (51%)
  • Forgive all $1.7 trillion in student loan debt (32%)
  • Not sure/I’d rather not say (17%)

As President of the United States, would you rather see Joe Biden implement a Medicare for All system (where all healthcare is free & paid for by the federal government) or legalize marijuana on a federal level?

  • Medicare-for-All system (62%)
  • Legalize marijuana on a federal level (25%)
  • Not sure/I’d rather not say (13%)

As President of the United States, would you rather see Joe Biden implement a Medicare for All system (where all healthcare is free & paid for by the federal government) or make the Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday?

  • Medicare-for-All system (74%)
  • Make the Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday (14%)
  • Not sure/I’d rather not say (12%)