The Associated Press/Ipsos Poll: Americans Concerned About Health Care, Jobs

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The Associated Press/Ipsos Poll: Americans Concerned About Health Care, Jobs

By WILL LESTER Associated Press Writer Washington, DC (AP) - Worries about the cost of health care have grown in the public's consciousness over the past two years and now rival their concerns about the economy, an Associated Press poll found. The Associated Press Poll is conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Between January 5-7, 2004, the AP/Ipsos poll interviewed a representative sample of 1,000 adults nationwide, including 774 registered voters. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 for all adults, +/- 3.6 for registered voters. Concerns about the overall economy have dropped during the past year, mostly in the last months of the year, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Unemployment has edged up slightly as one of the nation's most important problems over the last year. As domestic concerns shift, worries about terrorism continue to loom large, as they have for more than two years, according to the poll. The poll offers a glimpse of Americans' leading concerns at a time when Democrats are starting to choose a presidential nominee with Monday's Iowa caucuses and President Bush will be spelling out his election-year agenda in the State of the Union address Tuesday. Health care costs were mentioned by 19 percent in the poll, up from 11 percent a year ago and 5 percent two years ago. Unemployment was mentioned by 14 percent, up slightly from 9 percent a year ago. Twice as many women (26 percent) as men (13 percent) cited health care costs as a top problem. Diana Bauer, a food service director from Fresno, Calif. said she's convinced doctors sometimes "demand too much because they know insurance companies will pay it." Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to say health care was one of the most important problems. Minorities were twice as likely as whites to say unemployment was a major concern. When asked an open-ended question, poll respondents must offer an answer that comes to mind, rather than choose from a list of options given to them. They were allowed to offer more than one top problem in their answer. The war in Iraq, a dominant issue in campaign debate this year, was mentioned by 5 percent as one of the most important problems. "I think the major problem is that I'm not sure we have a real exit strategy for the situation in Iraq," said David Granger, a 44-year-old public relations worker from Equality, Ala., who said he's less worried about the economy than he was. "Right now it pales compared to what's going on internationally," he said. Improving signs from the economy recently have lessened worries that it is one of the most important problems. A year ago, 36 percent identified the economy as a top problem, double the 18 percent who gave that answer in the new poll. Concerns about other issues affecting people's economic security have been growing. Over the last year, Americans' feelings about their economic welfare have been boosted by a third round of tax cuts that took effect during the summer, continued low interest rates that have spurred record home sales and an improving stock market. Signs of an improving labor market have been halting. The government reported earlier this month that the unemployment rate dipped to 5.7 percent in December, the lowest level in 14 months. But payrolls rose by only 1,000 jobs in December, a tiny fraction of the 100,000 that analysts had hoped would be created. When asked to name the most important problems facing the United States, 21 percent cited terrorism as a top concern - about the same proportion that have done so each quarter in the past year. Republicans were nearly twice as likely as Democrats to mention terrorism as one of the most important problems. When the poll was taken in early January, the nation was still under a heightened terror alert that has since been lowered. Nearly one-third called terrorism a top problem in January 2002. "I think the most important problem is containing terrorism," said Bonnie Arnold, a 62-year-old paralegal from Walnut Creek, Calif. "It changes our way of life. I lived with the Cold War all my life, now this has replaced it. It's like a sword hanging over our heads." To view the complete filled-in questionnaire for this survey, please download the Topline Results. For more information, please contact: Thomas Riehle President, Ipsos Public Affairs Washington, D.C. 202.463.7300 About Ipsos Public Affairs Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, public affairs company made up of campaign and political polling veterans as well as seasoned research professionals. The company conducts strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of Canadian, American, and international organizations based not only on public opinion research, but often elite stakeholder, corporate and media opinion research. Ipsos Public Affairs also conducts national and international public opinion polling on behalf of the The Associated Press, the world's oldest and largest news organization. Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-based research firm. Visit us at: www.ipsos-pa.com About Ipsos Ipsos is a leading global survey-based market research group, which conducts research in more than 100 countries. Ipsos offers a full suite of research services--guided by industry experts and bolstered by advanced analytics and methodologies--in advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, and public affairs research, as well as forecasting and modeling. Member companies in Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific also offer a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services. To learn more, visit: www.ipsos.com Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris Premier Marchй, and is part of the SBF 120 and Next Prime Indices as well as eligible to the Deferred Settlement System (SRD). Euroclear code 7329, Reuters ISOS.LN, Bloomberg IPS FP

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