Divergent Attitudes on Health Care

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Nearly nine of ten Americans say the availability and affordability of quality health care is a big concern, but the level of concern varies with income, education, race, and gender. In particular, polls suggest that women, minorities, and those with lower income and less education tend to be more concerned about health care than white men and people with more schooling and higher incomes. What causes such a split? Is it primarily a result of economics? It would seem so: As individual groups, women, younger people, minorities, and those with less education tend to have less disposable income to invest in health care and are more likely to have jobs with little or no health insurance. So it makes sense that these groups should also be more concerned about health care issues. Interestingly, economics also seems to influence people's thinking about what the role of the federal government should be in making health care more accessible.

In July, for example, 68 percent of women, 87 percent of blacks, and 80 percent of 18- to 30-year-olds told poll-takers for The Washington Post that the federal government should work to increase Americans' access to health insurance. In the same poll, 73 percent of women, 82 percent of blacks, and 74 percent of people with a high school education or less were more likely to say it is the government's responsibility to make sure that prescription drugs are affordable to older Americans. Among the more financially secure groups - men, older, and more-educated people - significantly smaller majorities supported an expanded government role, and many more people in these groups opposed greater government intervention.

Public Agenda is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit, public opinion and policy research organization based in New York and founded by social scientist Daniel Yankelovich and former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Visit its Web site at www.publicagenda.org.

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