Reuters published a feature today on the growing influence of progressives in the Democratic Party, accompanied by a round of extensive polling on three of the most visible planks of the wing’s platform: abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, free college tuition, and Medicare for All. It turns out that nearly everyone really likes the idea of single payer!
According to Reuters’ polling, 85 percent of Democrats support Medicare for All, along with 52 percent of Republicans. In all, 70 percent of the nearly three thousand people Reuters polled indicated their support for Medicare for All, while 21 percent opposed it and 9 percent said they don’t know.
In polling free college tuition, Reuters noted it would be funded by taxing speculative trading, but said it would be “for those who meet income levels”; the College for All Act of 2017, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and co-sponsored by seven other Senate Democrats, eliminates tuition at four-year universities for families making under $125,000 a year and would eliminate it altogether at two-year public colleges.
Either way, the idea has solid support: Seventy-nine percent of Democrats and 60 percent of those polled said they support the idea. It’s even got support among a significant minority of Republicans, 41 percent. (Fifty percent of Republicans opposed the idea.)
While polling suggests that there’s less support for abolishing ICE when compared with the other two, the idea has made remarkable ground after over a year and a half of extreme immigration policies implemented by the Trump administration. Democrats are split at 44 percent on either side of the question. Seventy percent of Republicans oppose the idea, a number that you might expect to be even higher given the anti-immigrant sentiment coursing through the party. In total, 53 percent of the 7,737 people polled said they opposed the idea, while 32 percent said they’d back it.
It’s worth mentioning that the unlike the other two issues, which were popularized during Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, the movement to abolish ICE is still in its relative infancy on the public stage (though activists have been pushing for it for a long time). Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan’s bill that would “terminate” ICE, for instance, was introduced only last month, and has just eight co-sponsors (all of whom are Democrats) in the House.
By comparison, as Reuters notes, most Democrats currently in the House support Medicare for All, and even six members of the Blue Dog caucus—which is more responsible than anyone, save for maybe Joe Lieberman, for killing a better Affordable Care Act in the early years of the Obama administration—have signed on as co-sponsors.
Plenty of influential people in the Democratic Party, however, are still pushing back on the idea that running on popular policies can win votes. Brookings Institute Senior Fellow Elaine Karmack compared progressives winning in swing districts to “repealing the laws of physics” in an interview with Reuters.
But judging how much weight progressives are throwing around in the party by how many Our Revolution or Justice Democrats-endorsed candidates have won their races misses the whole picture. Reuters reports that two-thirds of the Democratic candidates running in 41 swing districts surveyed “want to expand the government’s role in healthcare,” and twelve of them back Medicare for All. People like Karmack seem to be very confident that fighting for better things will only amount to disappointment; luckily, it looks like we’re going to get a chance to see if they’re right or not.
Correction, 8/24, 12:40 pm.: An earlier version of this story said that Bernie Sanders’ college tuition bill eliminated tuition at public universities altogether. That assertion was based on a summary of the bill from Sanders’ office which did not mention income levels. In fact, the full plan would eliminate tuition at four-year universities solely for families making under $125,000 a year, and would eliminate tuition completely at two-year public colleges.