PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans name healthcare access, followed by costs, as the most urgent health problems facing the country today, as they have in recent years. However, with the renewed debate over healthcare reform in 2009, and passage of President Obama's reform bill in 2010, mentions of both issues have declined over the past two years, while a new concern -- too much government involvement in healthcare -- has emerged.
The latest results are from Gallup's 2010 Health and Healthcare poll, conducted Nov. 4-7.
The top five health problems Americans now mention as the most urgent are access to healthcare, healthcare costs, obesity, cancer, and government involvement in healthcare. Gallup formerly included mentions of government involvement in healthcare in the "access" category, but as of this poll established it as a separate issue and removed prior mentions of government involvement from the "access" trends.
Beyond the top five issues, much smaller percentages of Americans mention heart disease, the flu, AIDS, diabetes, finding cures for diseases, or drug and alcohol abuse.
While debate over the 2009 healthcare bill was highly polarized, Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to cite healthcare costs as a top issue. Democrats (including independents who lean Democratic), however, are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to mention access as the top health problem. Republicans are more likely to mention government involvement.
Gallup first asked Americans to name the most urgent health problem facing the country in 1987, when AIDS was the dominant answer and virtually no one mentioned access or costs. Regular updates since then, including annual measures since 1999, document the gradual decline of AIDS as a top problem during the 1990s and early 2000s, the rise of healthcare costs as an issue between 1991 and 1992, mounting concerns about healthcare access after 2001, and a gradual increase in concerns about obesity over the past decade.
Cancer has also consistently figured among Americans' top-rated problems. The flu has twice emerged as a major concern, but only when specific flu strains have attracted widespread publicity, as with the bird flu scare in 2005 and the H1N1 virus in 2009.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 4-7, 2010, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.