Party Satisfaction on Healthcare, Foreign Affairs Varies Most
Politics

Party Satisfaction on Healthcare, Foreign Affairs Varies Most

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Democrats more satisfied on each of 19 functions

PRINCETON, NJ -- Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be satisfied with the work the government is doing in each of 19 different areas. The parties' satisfaction levels diverge most on healthcare and foreign affairs, and diverge least on poverty, national parks, and transportation.

Satisfaction With Work Federal Government Is Doing in Different Areas, by Political Party, June 2013

In all, at least half of Democrats are satisfied with 13 of the government functions tested in the June 20-24 poll; the exceptions are poverty, education, the nation's finances, job creation and economic growth, labor and employment issues, and immigration policy.

In turn, a majority of Republicans are satisfied with only three government functions -- natural disaster response, national parks, and transportation. Half or more of independents are satisfied with those three areas plus homeland security, military and defense, and agriculture.

Overall, Americans are most satisfied with the government's handling of natural disasters and national parks.

The large Republican-Democratic party differences on healthcare satisfaction are likely related to the 2010 Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama, which Democrats overwhelmingly support and Republicans overwhelmingly oppose.

Conflicting policy preferences may also be the reason why Republicans' and Democrats' satisfaction with respect to government handling of foreign policy and national defense differ so widely.

The areas in which there are smaller party differences are those for which both parties are generally satisfied (national parks and transportation) or generally dissatisfied (poverty).

Party of President Likely Key Influence on Government Satisfaction

There is a wide range in Americans' overall satisfaction with the 19 different government functions. And Americans are clearly responsive to how the government is performing in a certain area at a given time, best exemplified by the 42-percentage-point increase in satisfaction with natural disaster response between 2005, a couple of weeks after Hurricane Katrina, and 2013, in the weeks and months after the Oklahoma City tornadoes and Superstorm Sandy.

But the fact that Democrats are more satisfied than Republicans in each of 19 areas indicates that Americans strongly take the party in power in Washington into account when evaluating government performance.

This pattern is confirmed by the finding that Republicans were more satisfied than Democrats with the government's work in all 17 areas measured in 2005, when George W. Bush was president.

As is true now, there were large party differences in satisfaction with the government's handling of the military and defense, and foreign affairs. And in the aftermath of Katrina, Democrats were highly dissatisfied with the government's natural disaster response, while most Republicans were satisfied.

Satisfaction With Work Federal Government Is Doing in Different Areas, by Political Party, 2005

In 2005, five years before passage of the Affordable Care Act, both Republicans and Democrats were dissatisfied with the government's work on healthcare, which meant a much smaller party gap on that issue than is the case now. Even so, Democrats were significantly more dissatisfied than Republicans with healthcare at that time.

The pattern of party differences was also apparent in 2001, George W. Bush's first year in office, when Republicans were more satisfied than Democrats with all government functions, except military and national defense, for which the two were about equally satisfied.

Implications

Americans do see key areas of strength and weakness for the federal government, with the public generally happy with the job the government is doing on natural disaster response, national parks, and transportation, and unhappy with its work on poverty and the nation's finances. These tend to be areas on which Americans of different party affiliations are more in agreement that the government is doing well or poorly.

At the same time, there is a larger set of areas on which people of different party preferences view the government's work differently, depending on which party is in power at the present time. This is evident in Americans' views of the government's handling of foreign policy as well as defense and the military, during both the Obama and the Bush administrations.

As such, for the remainder of Obama's time in office, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to be satisfied with the work the government is doing in nearly all areas. Whether they continue to be more satisfied will largely be determined by whether a Democrat or Republican is elected to succeed Obama on Election Day 2016.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 20-24, 2013, with a random sample of 1,009 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, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 282 Republicans, the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 295 Democrats, the margin of sampling error is ±7 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 410 independents, the margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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 www.gallup.com.

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