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Social Security, Medicare, and VA Policy Beliefs Across Party Lines

Written by
Sarah Aitchison
Attorney
Published June 26, 2024
4 min read
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Political affiliations shape beliefs on much of what governs American life. But what about today’s key issues, such as Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits? This question drives our exploration into how Democrats, Republicans, and Independents align or diverge on these critical topics. 

We presented them with a series of stances on each issue. Some of these sentiments were those generally shared by Republicans or Democrats, but to get unbiased replies, we didn’t tell respondents which ones those were. As a result, we’ve uncovered the nuanced views of different political and age groups on these issues.

The findings provide a comprehensive look at Americans’ positions on everything from the protection and expansion of Social Security to the debate over Medicare’s future and the consensus on enhancing veterans’ services. Let’s find out how their personal beliefs align with their party affiliations.

Key takeaways

  • 3 in 5 Americans believe that instead of privatizing Social Security, its benefits should be protected and expanded by increasing funding through higher payroll taxes on higher incomes. Most Democrats (75%) and Independents (55%) aligned with this stance.

  • 81% of Democrats and 61% of Independents believe Medicare should be expanded to provide universal healthcare to Americans of all ages. Meanwhile, 54% of Republicans believe Medicare costs should be reduced by introducing more private market competition and giving Americans more healthcare choices.

  • 63% of Americans believe the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) should receive increased funding for comprehensive health care, mental health, education, and reintegration into civilian life. Most Democrats (71%), Independents (59%), and Republicans (49%) agree.

Perspectives on Social Security

Social Security trust fund reserves are projected to run out in 2035, leading to a reduction in benefits for retirees. Congressional action is required to prevent this, potentially involving benefit cuts, increased payroll taxes, or raising the age at which taxpayers can claim benefits.

Americans have various opinions on how the government should go about this. This section explores the varying beliefs among different political affiliations and age groups regarding Social Security.

An infographic displaying Americans' bipartisan stance on social security.

We asked Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to choose between the overarching Republican and Democratic stances on Social Security. Most Americans (3 in 5) chose the Democratic stance — that instead of privatizing Social Security, its benefits should be protected and expanded by increasing funding through higher taxes for higher earners. This sentiment was strongest among Democrats (75%) and Independents (55%).

On the other hand, the commonly understood Republican stance has been that Social Security reform should involve increasing the retirement age and exploring private investment options. Although Republicans were nearly split between this (38%) and the Democratic stance (32%), they were somewhat more likely to side with the Democrats on specific aspects of Social Security policy. 

An infographic showing Americans' opinions on social security policies.

When asked about individual issues regarding Social Security, almost half of Republicans (48%) said they supported increasing benefits by heightening taxes on high earners — the key aspect of Democrats’ overarching Social Security policy idea. Another 49% believed Social Security should remain a government-managed program rather than privatized. 

Considering age groups, baby boomers were the most likely to support the Democratic stance on Social Security benefits (72%). In contrast, Gen Z — whose retirement years are generally further in the future than those of baby boomers — were the most likely to agree with the Republican stance (30%), which includes raising the retirement age.

Medicare opinions

Next, we’ll discuss the differing opinions on Medicare expansion and reform across political affiliations and age groups.

An infographic displaying Americans' bipartisan stance on Medicare.

The generally understood Democratic policy on Medicare is that it should be expanded to provide universal healthcare to Americans of all ages. Most Democrats (81%) and Independents (61%) agreed. In contrast, 54% of Republicans aligned with their own party’s stance that Medicare costs should be reduced by introducing more private market competition and giving Americans more healthcare choices. Only 29% aligned with the Democratic stance, often called “Medicare for All.” 

An infographic showing Americans' stances on Medicare policies

Republicans mostly aligned with their party’s stances on Medicare policy. But when presented with the individual aspects of proposed Medicare policies, 34% of Republicans said the government should expand Medicare to cover Americans of all ages (a key aspect of the “Medicare for All” stance). Still, Democrats were more than twice as likely as Republicans to support this — both when asked to choose between overarching partisan policies and what they thought about individual policy aspects. 

These groups also diverged starkly on whether Medicare should be replaced by privatized choices and a voucher system (part of the overarching Republican stance on Medicare policy). Aligning with their party, Republicans were nearly twice as likely as Democrats to believe it should. 

Baby boomers were the most likely to agree with the Republican stance on Medicare (27%), favoring privatization. In contrast, Gen Z and millennials (67%) were the most likely to support the Democratic stance, favoring “Medicare for All,” which many of them could benefit from. 

Consensus on veterans’ benefits

This section examines the common ground among Americans regarding veterans’ benefits, focusing on mental health, education, job training, and funding for veteran services.

An infographic showing Americans' bipartisan stance on veterans benefits

When asked about overarching partisan ideas about how the government should support the VA, most Americans (63%) believed the VA should get more funding for comprehensive healthcare, mental health, education, and programs to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life. A majority of Democrats supported this (71%), followed by Independents (59%) and just under half of Republicans (49%), indicating fairly broad bipartisan agreement on funding veteran support.

An infographic showing Americans' stances on veteran affairs policies

When asked about individual policy aspects regarding the VA, Americans across the political spectrum — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents — also agreed on two main ideas regarding veterans’ benefits. The majority (87%) believed that the government should provide more mental health, education, and job training programs for veterans. Another 82% felt that the government should focus on improving the efficiency and speed of veteran services (which can be notoriously slow).

The policy on which each party diverged most was whether the government should privatize the VA to improve service delivery. Just 27% of Democrats said so, compared to 54% of Republicans. 

Bridging beliefs and party lines

American beliefs on Social Security, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits showed some common ground but also stark differences across political affiliations and age groups. While Democrats and Independents often aligned on expanding social programs, Republicans preferred privatization and market-based solutions. However, the widespread agreement on supporting veterans showed some potential for bipartisan cooperation. 

Methodology

We surveyed 1,004 Americans about their stances toward Social Security, Medicare, and veteran benefits. Among all respondents, 11% were baby boomers, 24% were Gen X, 52% were millennials, and 12% were Gen Z. Additionally, 50% identified as Democrats, 27% identified as Independents, 21% identified as Republicans, and 1% identified as Other. These figures total less than 100% due to rounding.

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Sarah Aitchison

Attorney

Sarah is an attorney at Atticus Law, P.C. Prior to joining Atticus, she was a civil public defender in Brooklyn, NY and a business reporter in Seattle, WA. She is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law.
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