5/13/09 – SCL Releases New Findings About Voter Attitudes on Health Care Reform

Voters willing to engage in discussion about trade-offs


STANFORD, CA—Americans want answers to tough questions about the trade-offs involved in health care reform, according to new data released today by the Stanford Center on Longevity (SCL).

The findings are the result of a unique, bipartisan project that spanned nearly two years and united the typically disconnected worlds of politics, academia and the public.

“As lawmakers are preparing large-scale legislation with the goal of improving health care in our country, it is critical that leaders engage the public in an intelligent discussion about the options for change and what they mean both for individuals and for the system broadly,” said Dr. Laura Carstensen, SCL Director.

“The degree of conversation we’ve been having about the existing problems with the system must be mirrored with conversation about solutions to those problems. There is anxiety among the public about changes to their health care, which necessitates building public support for proposed changes to the system if they are to be successful.”

The project in brief: SCL worked with a group of distinguished health economists and political experts to identify six policy proposals designed to improve access and reduce cost, and then guided more than 2,000 voters through a comprehensive, balanced discussion about each proposal, including the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The unique approach: The project makes a distinct contribution to the national conversation about health care reform by placing different health care proposals in real context for voters. Voter viewpoints about each policy were measured not in the abstract as simply “pro” or “con”, but instead, in terms of the tradeoffs and compromises entailed in pursuing various reforms.

The ongoing discussion: SCL is posting the survey on its web site so interested voters, policymakers or advocates can access it as an aid for discussion and as a way to better understand the concerns of constituencies.


• While voters rate health reform as a very high priority, they do not form a consensus around any one of the six proposals, expressing instead ambivalence as they weight the tradeoffs involved in the implementation of each. Notably, none of the six proposals are clearly rejected outright either. Instead the findings reflect voters’ willingness to engage in a serious and substantive way on the topic of health care reform and their desire for more detailed information about the relative pros and cons of various reform proposals;

• The findings also reveal that voters’ reactions to various health care proposals are heavily tied to political party affiliation. In particular, Democrats show a real willingness to support proposals designed to expand access to health care. Voters across the partisanship spectrum–Democrats, Republicans and Independents—share strong concerns about health care costs;

• While 62 percent of Americans feel the health care system works well for them, 68 percent believe it does not work well for most Americans;

• 58 percent of Americans are not satisfied with cost and affordability of health care, but 50 percent are satisfied with the quality.


The Stanford Center on Longevity is transforming the culture of human aging using science, technology. In less than one century, life expectancy increased by an average of 30 years in developed regions of the world. Combined with a reduction in fertility rates across the same period, the changes in age distribution now under way in the population – both nationally and internationally – are dramatic and unprecedented. Added years can be a gift or a burden to humanity depending upon how they are used. The aim of the Center is to use increased life expectancy to bring about profound advances in the quality of life from early childhood to old age.

For more information, please visit https://longevity.stanford.edu