Many Democratic presidential candidates back healthcare benefits for undocumented immigrants, but it remains extremely controversial among the American public

  • At Thursday night’s Democratic primary debate, all 10 candidates onstage raised their hands when asked whether they would extend public healthcare benefits to undocumented immigrants.
  • New polling from INSIDER shows that 40% of respondents oppose including undocumented immigrants in government health plans.
  • The Democratic primary candidates may be getting ahead of the general electorate, risking a political backlash on an issue that President Donald Trump successfully campaigned on in 2016.
  • The candidates’ stances highlights the rising progressive currents within the Democratic party, especially on healthcare.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

At Thursday night’s Democratic primary debate, all ten candidates onstage raised their hands when asked whether they would extend public healthcare benefits to undocumented immigrants.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, framed the idea as a sensible approach for people who already pay taxes to receive such benefits, saying, “This is not about a handout, this is an insurance program.”

The frontrunner in the race so far, former Vice President Joe Biden, agreed with Buttigieg and pitched the idea as a way of extending the longevity of Social Security and reducing the costs of healthcare. It electrified President Donald Trump, who tweeted during the debate that “it’s the end of that race!”

The Democratic primary candidates may be getting ahead of the general electorate, risking a political backlash on an issue that President Donald Trump successfully campaigned on in 2016: immigration.

In a new poll conducted through SurveyMonkey Audience, we asked over 1,100 Americans their views on this thorny question. We asked whether respondents supported extending health care coverage “to all people living in the U.S., regardless of citizenship status.”

Overall, 40% of adult respondents oppose or strongly oppose including undocumented immigrants in government-provided healthcare, 30% support it while 19% neither support nor oppose and 10% said they did not know.

Even among respondents who identified themselves as likely participating in the Democratic primary, this remains controversial. While 23% strongly support granting those benefits and a further 26% support it, 17% of Democratic primary voters are unsure and 26% oppose or strongly oppose it, with 8% undecided. These results show that likely Democratic voters are divided over government-provided healthcare for undocument immigrants.

Read more: Trump blasted 2020 Democrats for supporting healthcare for undocumented immigrants

The candidates’ stances highlights the rising progressive currents within the Democratic party, especially on healthcare. It also opens up Democrats to critiques from the right, who have enjoyed considerable electoral success by exploiting divisions among Democrats and the nation on immigration policy.

A decade ago, a Democratic-led Congress barred undocumented immigrants from buying health insurance in the exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act. And they are excluded from receiving Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

In the 2016 presidential campaign, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wanted to allow undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance on the ACA healthcare exchanges with their own money. But they would have still been ineligible for the government subsidies that made the plans more affordable.

An estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, and they are far more likely than citizens to be uninsured. More than four in ten do not have access to health insurance, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Here’s the full question we asked respondents via SurveyMonkey Audience polls:

Several candidates have proposed universal health care coverage, with a guaranteed baseline of care offered to all Americans. Some would also like those benefits to extend to all people living in the U.S., regardless of citizenship status.

Opponents say that’s a giveaway of benefits and unfair to citizens. Supporters counter that health care is a human right and undocumented immigrants contribute billions in federal income and payroll taxes.

Were universal health care implemented, do you support or oppose extending those benefits to undocumented immigrants?

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Poll was collected June 28 to 29, 2019, had a total of 1,172 respondents, 448 of whom said they were Democrats who’d vote in the primary, and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.02 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.