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Social & Policy Issues

U.S. Concerns About Healthcare High; Energy, Unemployment Low

U.S. Concerns About Healthcare High; Energy, Unemployment Low

Story Highlights

  • Healthcare edges out crime, guns and deficit as top problem
  • Healthcare or economy has typically been top worry since 2001
  • Worries about unemployment, economy continue to decline

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fifty-five percent of Americans worry "a great deal" about the availability and affordability of healthcare, topping concerns about 14 other issues Gallup tested. Slim majorities also worry about crime and violence, federal spending and the budget deficit, and the availability of guns. Unemployment and affordable energy rank last.

Americans Worry More About Healthcare Than Other Issues
Next, I'm going to read a list of problems facing the country. For each one, please tell me if you personally worry about this problem a great deal, a fair amount, only a little or not at all.
A great deal A fair amount Only a little/Not at all
% % %
The availability and affordability of healthcare 55 23 23
Crime and violence 51 27 23
Federal spending and the budget deficit 51 26 22
The availability of guns 51 19 31
Drug use 45 25 29
Hunger and homelessness 44 32 23
The Social Security system 44 28 27
The quality of the environment 42 30 28
The size and power of the federal government 40 29 30
The possibility of future terrorist attacks in the U.S. 40 28 31
Race relations 37 27 35
The economy 34 36 30
Illegal immigration 34 24 41
The availability and affordability of energy 25 34 40
Unemployment 23 33 44
Gallup, March 1-8, 2018

This year marks the fifth year in a row, and 13th overall, that healthcare has either been first or tied for first among the issues. The economy has topped the list eight times, including every year from 2008 through 2016 (this question was not asked in 2009). Crime (in 2001 and 2016), terrorism (in 2015) and the budget deficit (in 2014) are the only issues besides healthcare and the economy that have held, or tied for, the top spot.

Most often, race relations has been the issue Americans worry least about. However, that has not been the case in recent years, as concerns about the issue spiked after several highly publicized cases of deadly confrontations between police and young black males.

Affordable energy and unemployment have been the issues Americans worry least about for the past two years, given low gas prices and low unemployment rates. Unemployment also tied for last in 2001. Immigration and climate change have also each finished last once.

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Majorities Have Consistently Worried About Healthcare

A majority of Americans have worried a great deal about healthcare each time Gallup has asked about it since 2001. It is the only issue of the 11 Gallup has measured consistently to maintain this level of worry.

Democrats have typically worried more than Republicans about the issue, including a 72% to 39% difference this year. However, the party groups were about equally likely to worry about it between 2014 and 2016, after major provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

chart 2

Of the three other issues to register 50% or higher worry this year, federal spending and the budget deficit is the one that has most often been a higher-level concern. First asked in 2011, the item has been above 50% worry five of the six times it was asked, except in 2017.

Americans' worry about crime and violence has been above 50% two other times, in 2001 and in 2016 -- years when it tied as the top issue overall.

Gallup asked about the availability of guns for the first time this year given the prominence of the issue since the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in mid-February.

Worries About Economy, Unemployment Reach New Lows

Levels of concern about most of the issues are similar to what they were a year ago, except for the economy and unemployment. Americans' concerns about those issues continue to decline from their high points after the Great Recession. The percentage of Americans now worried about unemployment is down 36 percentage points from the high of 59% in 2010, including a seven-point decline in the past year. Worry about the economy has dropped 37 points from its high of 71% in 2011 and 2012, with about one-third of that decline coming in the past year.

As a result, the percentages worried about these two economic matters are the lowest Gallup has measured since 2001.

chart 3

Implications

Healthcare has been a common concern for Americans, with the percentage worrying a great deal about it eclipsing most other issues over the past two decades. Passage of the Affordable Care Act did little to ease anxiety about the issue -- and with President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress taking steps to undo key provisions of the law, Americans' anxiety about the healthcare situation should persist.

Congress is unlikely to consider major legislation this election year beyond the bills it needs to keep the government running. Consequently, healthcare and other matters that Americans worry about -- such as federal spending and the deficit, crime, and the availability of guns -- promise to remain key issues. Democrats' especially high concern about healthcare could make it a mobilizing issue for the party as it seeks to win control of Congress this fall.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 1-8, 2018, with a random sample of 1,041 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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