Feb. 14, 2008 -- A new poll shows that U.S. voters are divided on the issue of socialized medicine, which is a government-run health care system.
The poll comes from the Harvard School of Public Health and Harris Interactive. More than 2,000 people took part in the poll, conducted by phone in January and February.
First, people were asked how well they understood the term "socialized medicine."
About two-thirds -- 67% -- said they understand the term "very well" or "somewhat well." Thirty percent said they don't understand the term very well or at all. The rest said they didn't know or didn't answer that question.
What Is Socialized Medicine?
People also had different expectations of socialized medicine.
Participants who said they understood socialized medicine "very well," "somewhat well," or "not very well" listened to three statements and noted those they thought applied to socialized medicine.
The poll shows that 79% thought that in a socialized medicine system, the government makes sure everyone has health insurance, 73% thought the government would pay most of the cost of health insurance, and 32% said they think it means that the government tells doctors what to do.
Better or Worse?
Next, people who claimed to understand socialized medicine "very well," "somewhat well," or "not very well" were asked if they thought socialized medicine would make the U.S. health care system better or worse.
The results: 45% said they thought it would improve health care, 39% said they thought it would worsen health care, 4% said they thought it wouldn't make much difference, and 12% didn't know or didn't answer.
But those figures take on another dimension when politics comes into play.
Among Democrats, 70% said they thought socialized medicine would improve U.S. health care. And 70% of Republicans said they thought it would worsen health care.
As for independents, 43% said they thought socialized medicine would improve U.S. health care, 38% said it would worsen health care, 5% said it wouldn't make much difference, and 14% didn't know or didn't answer.
Lastly, participants heard a list of presidential candidates' names and indicated whether they thought that person, if elected, would propose socialized medicine. They didn't have to pick just one candidate.
Hillary Clinton led the list of candidates that participants expected to propose socialized medicine as president; 69% said they thought she would do so. Next came Barack Obama (57%), Mike Huckabee (19%), and John McCain (15%).
McCain topped the list of candidates that participants didn't expect to propose socialized medicine; 62% said they didn't expect such a proposal from McCain, followed Huckabee (52%), Obama (26%), and Clinton (21%).
None of those candidates has proposed socialized medicine programs as part of their campaign platform.