Most Americans Agree that Nurses and Aides are Underpaid, While Few Support Using Federal Dollars to Increase Pay for Doctors

The public trusts doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, but not hospital executives.

Published: August 10, 2021

Large majorities of both Democrats and Republicans believe that nurses and health care aides are underpaid, while many Americans say doctors, physical therapists, and pharmacists are paid about right, according to a new UChicago Harris/AP-NORC Poll.

Most Americans trust doctors to do what is right for them and their families. A slim majority (54%), support funding to increase the number of doctors, and only 17% favor using federal funds to increase doctors’ pay.

The bipartisan consensus around health care workers’ pay provides insights into the types of policies that could gain broad public support. The survey results show that reforms that increase pay for nurses and health care aides or lower the salaries of executives are likely to appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.

The poll also finds that there have been no significant partisan shifts in attitudes toward health care policies since the pandemic, and Democrats are still significantly more likely than Republicans to support the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a single payer health care system, and a public option.

Most Americans believe that the ACA had no effect on the pay of doctors or nurses, but about a third think the law created a windfall for hospital and insurance executives. About 70% say both hospital and insurance executives are overpaid, and three-fourths of the public do not trust hospital executives to do what is right for them and their families.

Support for various health care reforms is related to views toward doctors, even controlling for political partisanship. For example, those who favor the ACA are more likely to support government funding to increase the number of doctors and boost their pay. In addition, Americans who favor a single payer health care system are more likely than those who do not to back the reform to support increasing the number of doctors.

The nationwide poll was conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research from June 10 to June 14, 2021, using AmeriSpeak®, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,071 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.2 percentage points.

Suggested Citation: AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (August, 2021)“Most Americans Agree that Nurses and Aides are Underpaid, While Few Support Using Federal Dollars to Increase Pay for Doctors” [apnorc.org/projects/most-americans-agree-that-nurses-and-aides-are-underpaid-while-few-support-using-federal-dollars-to-increase-pay-for-doctors]

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