Seniors Skeptical on Health Care Spending

Tom Schaller asks, “Why are senior citizens crying “socialism” at town halls?”

As we like to say in academia: I don’t know the answer, so let me tell you something I do know. (Graphs made in collaboration with Daniel Lee.)

First, who has health insurance (from the 2000 Annenberg survey):


Next, should the government spend more on health care (this time from 2004):


Some Obamacare supporters say: Senior citizens have Medicare, which is a government plan, so they should support public health care provision, right? But maybe some people on Medicare are suspicious of expanded government involvement in health care because they see it as competing with Medicare for scarce dollars.

Here are a couple more graphs (pretty similar to the second graph above):2004_ageVsSpendingOnHealthForWorkers.png



Pretty much the older you are, the less you favor govermnent spending on health care.

P.S. The sample size is so huge we were able to have the luxury of plotting raw data. All we did is pool the age categories 91 and up. Yes, we could make the graph cleaner by smoothing it, but why bother? The picture from the raw data is clear enough.

P.P.S. Yes, it would be good to have newer data. But I thought it would be useful to see this, given that we had the data already at hand and so the graphs were effortless to make. The patterns didn’t change much from 2000 to 2004, so maybe they represent fairly stable opinions.

8 thoughts on “Seniors Skeptical on Health Care Spending

  1. This will seem pedantic, but It would be better if the y-axis label were something like "percentage who said yes." Alternatively, the titles could be rewritten along the lines of "Percent who agree that the government should spend more money for health insurance for workers."

    My point is that "74%" is not an answer to the question "Do you agree that the government should spend more money for health insurance."

    I told you it would seem pedantic.

  2. As you say, the answer is not in the data. There was no reaction like this to Bush's Medicare Part D. Sadly, i think the answer is simply racism. Socialism is a stand-in for a less socially acceptable epithet that starts with "n".

  3. 'Socialism is a stand-in for a less socially acceptable epithet that starts with "n".'

    I probably wouldn't have agreed with that until I read the racist screed on , linked from this very blog. Apparently those who see racial politics in every decision often equate mixed races with socialism.

    That was something of a surprise, to me, since I usually associate low racial diversity with greater acceptance of socialism in various forms (Scandanavia, much of Northern Europe, the more successful nations of Asia, etc).

  4. William,

    Why would most people, who aren't savvy enough to realize that Republicans are not about free markets and that Democrats are not about socialism, pick up on the "socialism" of Bush's Medicare Part D? These folks are just typical Americans, suspicious of "big government," but only when common heuristics – Dems for nanny state, Reps for self-reliance – tell them that is what they're being threatended with.

    Just as nearly every progressive I know of thinks that Bush was for cowboy capitalism and couldn't possibly have expanded government (domestically), so too do these small town non-ideologues and professional politicos think that Obama is presenting something completely original and against American tradition.

    I chalk it up to ignorance, plain and simple.

  5. What if the people who have Medicare don't like it? Did they have a variable for satisfaction with health care or insurance? If people don't like Medicare, then they wouldn't want government to spend more on it and wouldn't want to "inflict" something like it on children.

    That would also explain all of these graphs.

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