By Emily Swanson and Ricardo Alsonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press
The Christian Science Monitor, December 21, 2017
As President Trump completes his first year in office, Americans are increasingly concerned about health care, and their faith that government can fix it has fallen.
A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 48 percent named health care as a top problem for the government to focus on in the next year, up 17 points in the past two years.
The poll allows Americans to name up to five priorities and found a wide range of top concerns, including taxes, immigration, and the environment. But aside from health care, no single issue was named by more than 31 percent.
And 7 in 10 of those who named health care as a top problem said they had little to no confidence that government can improve matters. The public was less pessimistic in last year’s edition of the poll, when just over half said they lacked confidence in the problem-solving ability of lawmakers and government institutions.
Rumblings of discontent have political repercussions for next year’s midterm elections and the presidential contest in 2020, said Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who follows opinion trends on health care.
“It’s the issue that won’t go away,” said Professor Blendon. “Given the news cycle, taxes should be first, the economy should be second, and this health care thing should be buried.”
New Year, Same Priorities: The Public’s Agenda for 2018
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research
Q31. Thinking about the problems facing the United States and the world today, which problems would you like the government to be working on in the year 2018? Please list up to 5 problems. (Open-ended question)
48% – Health care (all)
31% – Taxes/tax reform
27% – Immigration/border wall/DACA
18% – Environment/climate change
17% – Education
15% – Racism/racial inequality/racial issues
15% – Trump
15% – Economy, general
Q32. For each of these problems that you mentioned, how much effort would you like the federal government to devote to solving this problem in the year 2018?
Health care (all)
81% – A lot of effort/ great deal of effort
10% – A moderate amount of effort
2% – No effort/only a little effort
Q33. How confident are you in the ability of the federal government to make progress on this problem in 2018?
Health care (all)
6% – Very/extremely confident
24% – Moderately confident
72% – Not at all/slightly confident
By Don McCanne, M.D.
This poll was taken in the first week of December – a time when there was intense coverage of tax legislation. Yet in an open-ended question about problems that the government should be working on in 2018, heath care was far and away the greatest concern of Americans represented in this poll, up 17 points in the past two years, in spite of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Four-fifths would like to see the government devote a lot or a great deal of effort to solving this problem in 2018. Yet only seven percent are confident in the ability of the federal government to make progress on health care.
Americans are very concerned about our health care system; they want something done about it, and they want it done now. Yet they are not at all confident that the government can make progress on reform.
If there ever was a time to change the government (changing the agenda of the current actors, or replace them), that time is now. Join in the groundswell of citizen action to bring us Democracy in America.
(Coming soon, a brief review of “Democracy in America?” by Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens.)
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