The Economy and Health Care Top the List of Americans’ Priorities

The March 2017 AP-NORC Center Poll of 1,110 adults explores the public’s views on health care reform and the economy.

Health care is a top issue for most Americans: 50 percent say it is extremely important to them personally and another 36 percent say it is very important. However, in the latest poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 36 percent approve of how President Donald Trump is handling this issue. In comparison, 50 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, an issue that is cited by a similar proportion of the public as important. 

Americans currently have a much rosier view of the national economy compared with an AP-NORC poll taken last year. Now, 56 percent see the economy in a positive light and 43 percent call it bad. In April 2016, 42 percent of Americans described the economy as good and 57 percent said it was bad.

Only 34 percent of Republicans said the economy was good last year; now though, 63 percent have a positive view of the economy. Democrats continue to regard the economy as good: 54 percent said that in 2016 and the same percent say it is good in the current poll.

With the White House and both chambers of Congress under their control, Republicans attempted to replace the current law, the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA)–also known as Obamacare. On March 24, the proposed legislation, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), was pulled before it could be voted on by the House of Representatives. The nationwide poll was conducted March 23-27, 2017, using the AmeriSpeak Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. There were no significant differences in attitudes between interviews conducted before and those conducted after the announcement about the withdrawn bill. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,110 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. 

Few Americans say the proposed replacement law would have been beneficial, and at least half say low income people would have been particularly hurt by the law.  There is strong opposition to several aspects of the AHCA, particularly reducing funding for Medicaid, allowing companies to charge older people higher premiums, and requiring non-insured people to pay a surcharge when they get insurance. Two popular features of the ACA that were preserved–allowing adult children up to age 26 to remain on their parents insurance and the protection for people with pre-existing conditions–are the most favored aspects of the replacement legislation.

Meanwhile, by a margin of 45 percent to 38 percent, more Americans support than oppose the ACA. Seventeen percent neither support nor oppose it.

American attitudes on many issues divide along sharply partisan lines. Presidential approval, the direction of the country and views of the ACA follow this form. However, one subject on which most Americans can agree, regardless of their place on the ideological spectrum, is dislike of Congress.

Eighty percent of Republicans approve of Trump’s job performance and 89 percent of Democrats disapprove. On the other hand, a majority of both groups–71 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats–disapprove of how Congress is handling its job.