Gallup Poll: Health Care Ranks as Nation’s Top Problem

Poor government leadership shares number one spot

Americans have become much more concerned about health care in recent months, with 18% naming it as the most important problem facing the U.S., according to a new Gallup survey. Mentions of health care were tied with mentions of “dissatisfaction with government/poor leadership” at the top of the survey’s “most important problems” list. This is the highest percentage mentioning health care since November 2013, when the Obama administration rolled out its health care exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

The results were based on a Gallup poll conducted from May 3 to May 7. The House approved the American Health Care Act––the bill to replace the PPACA—on May 4. That vote followed a failed effort in the House in March to bring the original version of the bill to a vote. The Senate is now considering the health care legislation.

The percentage of Americans naming health care as the most important problem hit a peak of 26% in August/September 2009, amid angry town-hall meetings nationwide about the PPACA. Mentions of health care averaged 20% from August 2009 through March 2010, when President Barack Obama signed the bill into law. After that, fewer Americans cited health care as the most important problem until the exchanges were up and running in late 2013. As concerns about the PPACA website increased, the percentage of survey respondents naming health care as the most important problem in America was often in the teens.

Still, mentions of health care in the new survey were lower than they were in the mid-1990s, during the Hillary Clinton-directed push for universal health care. At that point, they reached the upper 20s and low 30s, peaking at 31% in January 1994.

In the new survey, 24% of Democrats rated health care as the most important problem, while 14% of Republicans and 17% of independents said the same.

Dissatisfaction with government and poor leadership tied with health care in early May as the nation’s most important problem. The 18% that mentioned government dissatisfaction was down from 21% in April, although this issue has remained one of the nation’s top problems for the last several years, Gallup noted.

After health care and government dissatisfaction, the next highest-ranking issues were immigration, the economy, unemployment, and race relations. The 7% that named immigration was down from 12% in March as President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the U.S.–Mexico border begins to retreat from the news.

The “economy in general” is typically one of the top-ranking issues on Gallup’s list. However, the 6% that mentioned it in the new poll was the lowest it has been since July 2007, just before the so-called Great Recession.

“With the repeal of Obamacare a distinct possibility, Americans believe health care is one of the most important problems in the U.S.,” Gallup concluded. “As the Senate debate over a new health care law wears on, this issue is likely to loom as a top-of-mind concern for months, if not years, to come.”

The results for this survey were based on telephone interviews conducted on May 3–7, 2017, with a random sample of 1,011 adults (18 years of age and older) in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Source: Gallup; May 12, 2017.