The FINANCIAL — Nearly two years after the debut of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” Americans are more positive about the work the federal government is doing in healthcare.
Forty-three percent say they are satisfied with the government’s work in this arena, up 14 percentage points from 2013. Still, 56% say they are dissatisfied, according to Gallup.
Gallup has asked Americans to rate their satisfaction with the way the federal government is handling a variety of issues, including healthcare, since 2001. At that time, 27% said they were satisfied with the government’s work in healthcare. In two surveys, one conducted in 2005 during the George W. Bush administration and the other in 2013 under Barack Obama, satisfaction with the government’s handling of the issue remained below 30%. However, in the most recent Gallup survey, conducted April 29-May 2, satisfaction with these efforts shot up to 43%.
Despite what many considered a botched rollout of the ACA’s website, healthcare.gov, as well as much criticism of the program itself, the percentage of Americans enrolling in the government’s healthcare program and other insurance programs have exceeded predictions. Likely as a result of Obamacare, the uninsured rate in the U.S. is now the lowest Gallup has tracked since 2008. There have also been modest increases in Americans’ views of the Affordable Care Act.
Satisfaction With Government’s Work in Healthcare Up Across Party Lines
Americans’ higher satisfaction with the government’s work in healthcare is reflected across the three major partisan groups. A solid 65% of Democrats this year are content with the government’s role in healthcare, contrasted with 39% of independents and 15% of Republicans. While Republican satisfaction is by far the lowest, it is up modestly from 7% two years ago. Satisfaction among Democrats and independents rose 12 and 13 percentage points, respectively.
Mail Delivery Rates Highest, Work on Poverty Lowest
Of 20 different areas included in this year’s survey, satisfaction with mail delivery came out on top with 90% of Americans satisfied — which reinforces the U.S. Postal Services’ No. 1 ranking among major government agencies in November 2014. That easily outpaces satisfaction with the government’s handling of national parks and open space (73%) and its “responding to natural disasters” (71%). At the opposite end of the spectrum, 24% of Americans are satisfied with the government’s handling of immigration policy, 23% with “the nation’s finances” and 16% with its efforts on poverty.
It’s clear that Americans give the government a mixed report card on the list of functions it performs, especially compared with 2013. While some areas of focus for President Barack Obama have seen significant increases in the past two years — healthcare, job creation and labor and employment issues — other areas such as veterans’ issues and criminal justice experienced significant drops. These drops likely partly reflect the effect of major scandals involving Veterans Affairs and recent high-profile law enforcement cases in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore; and Staten Island, New York.
While defining a customer for private-sector organizations is largely based on transactions with the business, defining “customers” for the federal government is difficult because of the indirect effects of regulations and the policies. In a broad sense, every resident is a “customer” of the government in numerous ways, even without making a distinct transaction or choice.
Measuring satisfaction with how the government handles various issues — rather than the agencies most responsible or most associated with certain tasks — provides broad metrics that assess governmental effectiveness. Where satisfaction increases significantly over time, there is likely to be a reasonable catalyst for that change. The change might be attributable to government action, from either more effective policies or better coordination among government entities, or it may stem from ineffective policies or management, such as with the recent Veterans Affairs management struggles.
Americans’ extremely positive view of the Postal Service and mail delivery may be a result of interacting with the USPS nearly every day. Visiting national parks may also provide a pleasant “customer interaction” for Americans. Overall, Americans may express a high dissatisfaction with government and have low levels of trust in the body in general, but there are several areas of the government’s performance that Americans are pleased with.