The percentage of Americans mentioning health care as the country’s most important problem increased to 19 percent in November from 12 percent in October, as technical issues with the federal health insurance website continue and the White House faces criticism over people being dropped from their health plans. Health care now ranks second behind dissatisfaction with government as the top problem, but ahead of the economy in general, unemployment, and the federal debt.
Mentions of poor health care or the high cost of health care as a top problem in the November 7-10 survey have nearly doubled since September and are higher now than in any month since the Affordable Care Act become law in March 2010. This suggests that recent troubles with the federal health exchange website and other problems with the health care law’s rollout, including accusations that President Barack Obama misled Americans about keeping their current coverage, may be fueling public concern.
The 26 percent of Americans who mention dissatisfaction with government as the top problem this month is down slightly from a record high of 33 percent in October. The still-high level of frustration with government is consistent with record-low congressional approval in November and the president’s job approval rating hovering near his personal low.
This month marks the first time since 2007 that non-economic issues have occupied the top two spots on Americans’ list of most important problems. Fewer Americans have been mentioning the economy in general or unemployment specifically this year, possibly reflecting their increasing confidence in the economy.
Dysfunctional government has replaced the economy and unemployment as Americans’ top concerns, and mentions of health care have increased in November to a three-year high. While fewer mentions of the economy and unemployment may suggest that Americans have grown more satisfied with each, it is more likely that the recent spate of problems in Washington has focused Americans’ concerns on government leadership and health care, eclipsing their concern about routine economic issues. It is possible that the spike in Americans’ worries about these two issues will prove temporary, and that mentions of the economy and unemployment will increase in coming months.