February Health Tracking Poll Introduction
The February Kaiser Health Tracking Poll focuses on some of the health policy implications of this winter’s national debate over gun violence, gun control and the adequacy of the nation’s response to the needs of those living with serious mental illness. The survey finds that one in five Americans have some connection to a victim of gun violence, a share that doubles to 42 percent among blacks. Worry about becoming a victim is even more widespread among the public (four in ten are at least somewhat worried) and again is strikingly high among members of minority groups (62 percent of blacks express concern, as do 75 percent of Hispanics).
When it comes to mental health issues, most Americans perceive that those with serious mental illness experience at least some discrimination or prejudice in U.S. society, even as many say they themselves would be uncomfortable living or working near someone with severe mental health issues. The majority of the public backs the idea having equal benefits for mental health coverage; fewer than half (38 percent) recognize mental health parity is already law. With a one in four adults estimated to suffer from a mental health problem, the poll finds that just shy of one in ten Americans report having had trouble getting access to the mental health services they need.
Finally, the February survey checked in on opinion toward the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which tilted negative in this poll: 42 percent unfavorable, 36 percent favorable, and 23 percent with no opinion, the latter a new high in Kaiser polling. As the national debate on immigration reform picks up speed, the survey finds four in ten Americans wrongly believe that the ACA offers benefits to undocumented immigrants, and another quarter are not sure how illegal immigrants are treated under the law. The majority of the public says that if lawmakers did pass a law allowing some undocumented immigrants to apply for provisional legal status, however, those who obtained this status should have access to the health coverage benefits the ACA offers.
The February poll is the latest in a series designed and analyzed by the Foundation’s public opinion research team.