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 new 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.”
“Even as they express concern about health care costs, Americans understand that medical progress requires sufficient resources and a commitment from our elected officials to find solutions to what ails us,” added Woolley. “Candidates have an opportunity before Election Day to close the empathy gap with Americans by discussing their plans to advance public and private sector research.”
Among other survey results:
- 84% of respondents say it is important that the U.S. remains the global leader in bringing new medicines to patients.
- 81% of respondents say it is important for the federal government to invest in health care delivery research.
- 77% of respondents say it is important for them to know whether their candidates for Congress believe the government should invest more in medical research.
- 73% of respondents say it is important for the federal government to support incentives for private sector investment in new treatments and cures.
- Nearly half (48%) of respondents say we are not making enough progress in developing new medicines.
- Only 25% of respondents say there is enough collaboration between academics, government and industry scientists on research projects to discover and develop new medicines.
Research!America’s national voter education initiative, Campaign for Cures, encourages all candidates to share their views and articulate their plans to speed medical progress with voters. For more information visit www.campaignforcures.org.
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.
About Research!America Surveys
Research!America began commissioning surveys in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America's surveys have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific polling. Survey data is available by request or at www.researchamerica.org.
Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.