EMPATHY GAP: AMERICANS SAY POLITICAL CANDIDATES ARE NOT LISTENING TO AND UNDERSTANDING THEIR HEALTH CONCERNS AND EXPECTATIONS
A strong majority of Americans (81%) say medicines available today have improved their quality of life and even more (91%) say it is important to develop better medicines for conditions we currently treat, according to a national public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America. But many respondents say candidates for President and Congress have done a poor job relating to the health expectations of Americans. Less than a quarter of respondents say candidates running for Congress listen to and understand the health concerns of Americans, and one-third say the same for presidential candidates. A majority of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and non-Hispanic whites all agree that candidates are not paying attention to the health concerns of people like them.
“While voters overwhelmingly believe policymakers should take action to drive faster medical progress, most don’t know whether their candidates agree with them that faster medical progress is a priority,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “This adds up to an empathy gap. Voters simply do not believe candidates are upholding their best interests. They don’t see candidates fighting for new lifesaving treatments for deadly, disabling diseases. The urgency of finding cures and new preventions must be a shared American value supported by candidates and voters alike.”
Nearly 80% of respondents say it is important for the next President and the next Congress to assign a high priority to putting health research and innovation to work to assure continued medical progress. The view is shared by a majority of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, minority groups and non-Hispanic whites. But very few Americans know where the candidates stand on public or private sector research. In a September 2015 survey, 17% recalled hearing any of the presidential candidates discuss science in the last 30-60 days, but that number has dropped. In the new survey, just 12% of those surveyed remember hearing a presidential candidate discuss medical research in the last 30-60 days. The results are still lower for congressional candidates – only 9% remember hearing them talk about research. These low percentages are true across the board, with very few Democrats, Republicans and Independents, minority groups and non-Hispanic whites recalling presidential and congressional candidates discuss medical research in the past two months.
Many Americans are willing to pay more to advance research. A majority of respondents, including Hispanics (74%), African-Americans (68%), Asians (67%) and non-Hispanic whites (60%) say they would support paying additional taxes - $1 per week - if they knew for sure the money would go towards the U.S. investing more in research to improve health. This finding holds true across party lines: Democrats (75%), Independents (55%) and Republicans (54%). When asked whether medical research and development is part of the problem or part of the solution to rising health care costs, opinions were split across party lines and among minority groups and non-Hispanic whites, and significant percentages of all responded “not sure.”
The survey of 1,005 U.S. adults, conducted by Zogby Analytics in June 2016, has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points. The minority oversampling of 407 African-Americans has a margin of error of +/-4.9 percentage points, 419 Hispanics, +/-4.9 percentage points, and 305 Asians, +/-5.7 percentage points. To view survey results, click here.
Candidates running for national office should have a basic understanding of scientific issues that drive public policy. Many Americans (87%) agree including significant majorities across party lines, according to a national public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America and ScienceDebate.org in September 2015. To view more results from the September 2015 survey, click here.