Axios-Ipsos poll: Politics drive public health fears over opioids, guns3 min read
Republicans see fentanyl and other opioids as the biggest threat to Americans’ public health, while Democrats say it's guns, according to a new Axios-Ipsos survey.
Why it matters: The Axios-Ipsos American Health Index sheds light on how our partisan divisions — and our education levels — play into the wrangling over public health policies, and how they guide the parties' political messaging.
- The survey also found that Americans overwhelmingly want private health insurance companies to cover weight-loss drugs and that they support capping out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 per month.
- Nearly half of Americans — 47% — say insurers should cover transgender-related medical care. That's a deeply partisan issue: 77% of Democrats favor it; just 16% of Republicans do.
The big picture: The national survey of 1,213 U.S. adults found that Americans' concerns over opioids — including fentanyl, a synthetic — vary by education level, not just by party.
- Opioids were the top health concern of 32% of people with a high school diploma or less, compared to 25% of people with some college and 20% of those with a bachelor's degree or higher.
- Concerns about obesity appear to corollate to education: Just 12% of Americans with no college — but 30% of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher — say it's the nation's biggest public health threat.
- There's a big divide among those worried about guns, based on where they live: 22% of urban residents and 17% of suburban residents cited gun violence as their biggest concern, compared to just 8% of rural Americans.
Reality check: Heart disease and cancer actually were the two leading causes of death in the U.S. as of 2021, followed by COVID-19 and accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- But in the survey about Americans' health concerns, cancer ranked a distant fourth, with coronavirus, unsafe roads or driving, smoking and tobacco products, and alcohol abuse next in line.
Context: The findings square with the priorities lawmakers are pursuing on Capitol Hill. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee kicked off the year under the new Republican majority with a hearing focused on fentanyl, while House Democrats have asked for a classified briefing on mass shootings.
- Both sides are responding to grim statistics: The CDC estimates there were 107,477 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months ending in August 2022, while gun violence killed more than 44,000 Americans last year.
- The survey also is a window into President Biden's thinking when he proposed limiting insulin costs to $35 a month, a popular plan roundly praised by Democrats in Congress — and criticized by Republicans.
By the numbers: 26% of Americans overall see opioids as the greatest current threat to U.S. public health — the largest share of any concern cited.
- Republicans were more than twice as likely to say so as Democrats, with independents falling somewhere in the middle.
- Obesity, at 21% among Americans overall, is seen as the second-largest threat. Republicans and independents are more concerned than Democrats about the issue.
- Access to guns or firearms is seen as the third highest public health threat by Americans overall, at 17%, but that belies a gaping partisan disconnect: Democrats are nearly nine times as likely as Republicans to say it's the biggest threat.
Between the lines: Despite the differences in priorities, majorities of Americans said they support stricter requirements for guns, including majorities across the political spectrum and among gun owners.
- 37% said they or someone in their household owns a gun.
- The survey found that 87% of Americans support background checks for all gun sales, with 97% of Democrats, 79% of Republicans and 88% of independents endorsing the idea.
Likewise, 78% of Americans support red-flag laws to allow guns to be taken away from people who courts have determined to be dangerous, including 95% of Democrats, 63% of Republicans and 79% of independents.
And 84% of Americans — including 73% of gun owners — said they'd support requiring gun owners to keep their firearms stowed with trigger locks or in safes.
Methodology: This Axios/Ipsos Poll was conducted Feb. 17-21 by Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®. This poll is based on a nationally representative probability sample of 1,213 general population adults age 18 or older.
- The margin of sampling error is ±3.0 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of adults.
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