Following this year’s contentious election, divisions among Americans on a number of issues seem to be stronger today than in recent history. However, earlier this election cycle, Public Opinion Strategies conducted a national poll showing agreement among voters on the importance of making access to public health services a priority: nearly 2 in 3 voters said they think every community should ensure that Americans have access to public health protections and services.

At the request of the de Beaumont Foundation, we polled voters nationally about their views on public health, and we found agreement among majorities of voters.

  • 76 percent of Americans believe public health departments play an important role in the health of their community.
  • 66 percent of voters believe every community should have basic public health protections.
  • 57 percent of voters say they are willing to pay more in taxes to make sure communities have the resources they need to deliver those services.

The question about making access to public health services a very high or high priority is significant. It shows support across all different demographic groups of voters (ethnicity, age, gender, party, income, geography, region, and education) saying it should be a very high or high priority for their state to ensure every community has access to public health protections and services.

The poll does show some challenges for public health professionals. When commenting on the relative value of organizations in creating healthy communities, voters rated hospitals, schools, fire departments, and police departments above public health departments.

When evaluating individual public health services, voters placed a particular priority on stopping the spread of communicable diseases, bringing others in government together to respond to public health emergencies (such as natural disasters), ensuring environmental health (such as clean air and clean water), and supporting child and maternal health.

As a new Congress gets to work in January and new governors, mayors, and legislators take office across the country, this strong bipartisan support for making local public health a priority could help drive agendas and changes.

Methodology: Public Opinion Strategies conducted a national telephone survey among N=1,000 registered voters from Aug. 31-Sept. 8, 2018. The margin of error is +3.1%. For more information about the poll results, see the news release and infographic.

Elizabeth Harrington is a partner with Public Opinion Strategies. Founded in 1991, Public Opinion Strategies is one of the nation’s leading public opinion research firms specializing in political, public affairs, public policy and corporate positioning research. Its roots are in political campaign management. The firm’s research is focused on producing data that compels decisions — to get results.

This was first published on the APHA Annual Meeting blog as part of the de Beaumont Foundation’s “Fresh Perspectives” series.

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