Reports

Special Issue Brief: National Survey of Registered Voters on Public Health

January 2017

A new national survey of registered voters has found that nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Americans support increasing investments to improve the health of communities.  Support spans across party lines (57 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Independents) and regionally across the country (75 percent in the Northeast, 71 percent in the Central U.S., 72 percent in the South, and 75 percent in the West).  Women are the strongest proponents of supporting health improvement efforts (62 percent of Republican women, 87 percent of Democratic women and 80 percent of Independent women).

The survey, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in consultation with Bellweather Research, on September 8-9, 2016 of a nationwide sample of 1302 registered voters across the country.

A majority (51 percent) believe that today’s children will be less healthy than previous generations when they reach adulthood.  The groups who hold this belief most strongly include: Republicans (55 percent); rural residents (60 percent); Southerners (57 percent); Independent women (62 percent); and Black women (68 percent).  Most registered voters with children under age 18, however, believe their own children are very healthy (92 percent give an 8-10 rating on a 10-point scale); this is the case for parents of all ideologies, incomes, education levels, and ethnicities.

Additionally, 64 percent believe that the number of health issues facing the country has grown in recent years. Obesity is the top health concern (41 percent), cancer ranked second (33 percent), followed by heart disease and stroke (14 percent) and diabetes and substance misuse (both at 11 percent). 

Americans also rate their own health better than the health of the community where they live (66 percent rate their own health as 8-10 (very good) on a 10 point scale, but only 36 percent rank their community’s health as very good).  There are differences based on income, age, education and area of the country on how people rank their health.  For instance:

  • 73 percent of college-educated Whites rank their health as very good compared to 57 percent of Whites without college degrees; and
  • 72 percent of individuals with a household income above $50,000 per year rank their health as very good compared to 59 percent of those with incomes below $50,000.

A majority of American registered voters also strongly support (rating 8-10 out of a 10 point scale) a range of priorities and strategies for improving health, including:

  • 74 percent of people highly support providing enough time -- during the school day and afterschool – for kids’ physical education, physical activity or community sports;
  • 74 percent also highly support creating partnerships among farmers, food suppliers and community health groups to bring fresh produce trucks or mobile markets to communities that lack access to grocery stores;
  • 65 percent highly support providing kids with more information on making healthy food choices and being physically active;
  • 63 percent highly support investing more in preventing obesity and chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and stroke;
  • 62 percent highly support increasing early childhood health programs, including home visit programs, mobile health screenings and treatment for diseases like asthma. 
  • 61 percent highly support investing more in preventing the spread of infectious diseases like the Zika virus, bird flu and hepatitis;
  • 60 percent highly support treating substance use, including addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin, like a disease, not a crime;
  • 60 percent highly support planning for a building more parks, walking and biking trails and other recreation areas for people to be physically active in all communities;
  • 60 percent highly support increasing access to safe and affordable housing and routinely testing for things that create health problems in homes, like lead in water and paint, carbon monoxide, and harmful chemicals in the air;
  • 59 percent highly support increasing incentives that encourage business owners to open grocery stores in communities that lack access to healthy food options; and
  • 58 percent highly support building local partnerships across businesses, health systems, schools and community organizations to address specific health problems in communities. 

Methodology:  On behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, in consultation with Bellwether Research, conducted a survey among 1,320 registered voters nationwide (1,019 weighted). The survey was conducted between September 8th and 19th, 2016. Voters were randomly selected from a list of registered voters and reached on a landline or cell phone depending on the number they designated on their voter registration. Interviews were conducted by live telephone interviewers; 50 percent were reached on a cell phone. Included in the sample were three oversamples: 100 Black voters, 100 Hispanic voters, and 100 White non-college voters. Upon completion of the survey, the results were weighted to bring the three oversamples into line with the racial and ethnic composition of registered voters nationwide. The data was weighted to reflect the total population of registered voters, taking into account regional and demographic characteristics according to known census estimates and voter file projections. The data are subject to a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.  Full survey and topline results are available upon request. 

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