Health Care May Play Smaller Role in 2002 Elections than in 2000, Health Affairs Reports
Health care "may play even less of a role" in the 2002 mid-term elections than it did in the 2000 presidential election because Americans are more concerned about the economy and terrorism, according to a new article published today on the Health Affairs Web site. Researcher Robert Blendon and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed polling data they collected in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and data from Harris Interactive surveys to track public opinion on health care issues before and after Sept. 11. Researchers found that health care (14%), followed education (18%) and the economy (15%) were Americans' top concerns in Harris Interactive surveys conducted before Sept. 11. After the attacks, however, health care (9%) dropped to fourth, behind terrorism (37%), the economy (37%) and defense issues (13%), according to a Harris poll taken last month.
However, a survey conducted in May and June 2002 by Blendon and RWJF found that "dissatisfaction" with the affordability and availability of health care has increased as a concern since the attacks. In that survey, 60% of respondents said they were "not too satisfied" or "not at all satisfied" with the availability and affordability of health care, up from 48% in a survey conducted in November and December 2001. Among health care issues, cost remains the "top concern," but the article notes that Americans are not turning to the government to control health care costs. Instead, the survey indicates that Americans are more concerned that the government address issues impacting Medicare and insufficient health care coverage (Health Affairs release, 8/14). Given that the issue of the uninsured "ranks high[ly]" among those polled, the article says it "may emerge as an important one in the post-2002 congressional election" (Blendon et al., "The Continuing Legacy Of September 11 For Americans' Health Priorities," Health Affairs, 8/14). The article is available online.
In an accompanying article, Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Mollyann Brodie, vice president and director of public opinion and media research at KFF, examine the strengths and weaknesses of polling. The authors conclude that while the "real value of polling is to show leaders and groups where the public is and where they still have some educating and convincing to do," polling data must be viewed with a "critical eye" because public opinion "can be fluid and is just one of many elements in the national agenda-setting and decision-making processes" (Altman/Brodie, "Opinions on Public Opinion Polling," Health Affairs, 8/14). The article is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.