The Covid-19 Pandemic

Americans’ Perceptions of the Healthcare System


NEW YORK, April 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Despite apparent gaps in the United States’ healthcare system during the coronavirus outbreak, Americans are generally satisfied with the healthcare system’s performance, according to a new poll from Fordham University. The crisis may, however, be driving more Americans to support a government-run healthcare system. At this point, Americans also express support for guaranteed quality healthcare for all Americans, those infected with the coronavirus, and other groups, regardless of party affiliation. Support for access to quality care regardless of citizenship status is also widespread.

The poll, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, took place from April 16 through 20, 2020, among 1,003 respondents nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of 4.33 percentage points. The poll is a product of the Fordham Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Advanced Certificate in Public Opinion and Survey Research and its M.A. in Elections and Campaign Management.

Covid-19 and Satisfaction with Healthcare System

More than seven in ten Americans (71%) report being satisfied with how the American healthcare system is working during the coronavirus pandemic – including 26% who are very satisfied – while only 28% are dissatisfied. Satisfaction transcends partisan affiliation: 64% of self-described Democrats, 69% of Independents, and 80% of Republicans express satisfaction.

While few Americans are dissatisfied with how the healthcare system is working during the pandemic, those who are predominantly cite sources of non-preparedness for their attitudes. When asked to describe the most important reason for their dissatisfaction, 15% say a general lack of preparedness, another 14% say lack of testing availability, 11% say lack of personal protective equipment, and 7% cite the lack of medical equipment or supplies – for a total 47% citing some lack in the system. 

Support for Single-Payer Healthcare during the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic may be influencing Americans’ support for a single-payer healthcare system. When asked to choose between a single-payer system and a system based mostly on private insurance, a slim 53% majority of Americans now choose a single-payer system with 44% preferring insurance-based. Five months ago, pre-coronavirus, when Gallup asked a similar question the numbers were the reverse – 42% and 54% respectively.

Not surprisingly there are large partisan differences on this issue. Majorities of Democrats (68%) and independents (57%) would prefer a single-payer system in the midst of the pandemic, but nearly three-quarters (72%) of Republicans would rather have a system based primarily on private insurance.   

Perceptions of Government’s Healthcare Responsibilities

We asked Americans about the federal government’s responsibility to provide quality healthcare to various groups of Americans: the poor, senior citizens, veterans, those infected with the coronavirus, and all Americans. Majorities of all partisan affiliations agreed it was the federal government’s responsibility to provide healthcare to each of the groups.

Those who agree it is the federal government’s responsibility to provide quality healthcare for:

 DemocratIndependent /OtherRepublican
Senior citizens88%86%81%
People infected with coronavirus87%85%77%
The poor88%80%70%
All Americans87%80%59%

For most of the target groups, the majority support for guaranteed quality healthcare is sizable. Only for guaranteeing healthcare to all American does a deep partisan divide develop – a smaller majority of Republicans – 59% – support guaranteed quality care for all, compared to  seven-in-ten or more of Republicans that support the same for each of the other target groups.

Healthcare Coverage for Non-Citizens

Americans are also supportive of providing healthcare to non-citizens when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak. Nearly eight-in-ten respondents believe people should have access to quality medical care regardless of citizenship status, with half of all Americans strongly believing so. Here again, majorities of all parties are supportive of such access although strong support varies dramatically: 68% of Democrats believe strongly that people should have access to quality medical care regardless of citizenship status, as do 48% of independents, but only 30% of Republicans believe so strongly.

The poll’s director, Professor Monika McDermott, sums up the poll results: “The coronavirus pandemic appears to be changing Americans’ attitudes, at least temporarily, on healthcare in America. We see broad bipartisan support for the idea of guaranteeing quality healthcare to all Americans. We even find broad support for healthcare access for non-citizens at a time when immigration is a very divisive topic.”


[Questions 1 through 6 in separate release]

7. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with how the American healthcare system is working during the coronavirus pandemic? Is that very or somewhat?

Very satisfied26%22%22%35%
Somewhat satisfied45%42%47%45%
Somewhat dissatisfied18%21%18%14%
Very dissatisfied10%11%12%7%
Don’t know/No answer2%4%1%0%

 [Asked of those who answered dissatisfied to Q7]
8. What would you say is the single most important reason for your dissatisfaction?

Lack of preparedness15%
Lack of testing availability14%
Lack of personal protective equipment11%
Need for universal healthcare9%
Lack of medical supplies/equipment7%
Healthcare workers at risk4%
Hospitals overwhelmed4%
Not enough/false information provided4%
Federal government not handling correctly4%
Cost of treatment/healthcare4%
Administration did not act quickly enough3%
People not following restrictions3%
Don’t know/No answer12%

[Asked of all]
9. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree that it is the federal government’s responsibility to provide quality healthcare for each of the following populations in America? Is that strongly or somewhat?

[Item order randomized]

  1. The poor
Strongly agree47%67%48%21%
Somewhat agree33%21%32%49%
Somewhat disagree13%6%14%20%
Strongly disagree5%2%5%9%
Don’t know/No answer2%4%2%0%
  1. Senior citizens
Strongly agree56%73%56%37%
Somewhat agree29%15%30%44%
Somewhat disagree9%5%9%13%
Strongly disagree4%2%5%6%
Don’t know/No answer2%4%1%0%
  1. Veterans
Strongly agree69%77%67%62%
Somewhat agree23%13%24%32%
Somewhat disagree4%4%5%3%
Strongly disagree2%2%3%2%
Don’t know/No answer2%4%2%1%
  1. People infected with the coronavirus
Strongly agree59%72%57%45%
Somewhat agree25%15%28%32%
Somewhat disagree11%7%11%16%
Strongly disagree3%2%3%5%
Don’t know/No answer2%4%2%1%
  1. All Americans
Strongly agree47%66%46%24%
Somewhat agree30%21%34%35%
Somewhat disagree13%6%12%23%
Strongly disagree8%3%7%16%
Don’t know/No answer2%4%1%2%

10. Concerning the coronavirus outbreak, do you believe people should have access to quality medical care, regardless of citizenship status, or don’t you believe that? Is that strongly or somewhat?

Strongly believe50%68%48%30%
Somewhat believe28%19%30%36%
Somewhat don’t believe11%5%13%17%
Strongly don’t believe8%4%7%14%
Don’t know/No answer3%4%1%3%

11. If you had to choose which of the following two approaches for providing healthcare in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States would you prefer--a government-run healthcare system, or a system based mostly on private health insurance?

  PartyGallup 11/19*
Government run system53%68%57%27%42%
System based on private insurance44%26%41%72%54%
Don’t know/No answer3%5%2%1%4%

* “Which of the following approaches for providing health care in the United States would you prefer--a government run health care system, or a system based mostly on private health insurance?” Conducted by the Gallup Organization, November 1-19, 2019.

The nationwide poll was part of an omnibus survey conducted April 16-20, 2020 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,003 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.33 percentage points.

Professor Monika McDermott
(917)747-1987 (cell)