Americans Say Congress Should Take Swift Action to Assure Patients Benefit from Treatments and Cures for Diseases

New Poll Data Summary booklet reveals concerns among Americans about the pace of medical progress

AS15Majorities across the political spectrum say it is important that the new 114th Congress takes action on assuring the discovery, development and delivery of treatments and cures for diseases in the first 100 days of the legislative session (75% Democrats, 64% Republicans and 60% Independents), according to America Speaks, Volume 15, a compilation of public opinion polls commissioned by Research!America. As Congress considers numerous proposals in support of research, including the 21st Century Cures draft legislation aimed at speeding the delivery of lifesaving treatments to patients, it is notable to see public support in favor of accelerating medical progress.

“The new Congress has the opportunity to reinvigorate our research ecosystem and enact policies that will enable the private sector to expand innovation,” said Research!America Chair John Edward Porter. “Congress must work in a bipartisan fashion to realize the potential of promising studies to prevent and treat disease.”

An increasing percentage of Americans say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should move more quickly in order to get new treatments to patients, even if it means there may be risks. In 2015, 38% favor faster regulatory review, compared to 30% in 2013. Meanwhile, 25% say the FDA should act more slowly in order to reduce risk, even if it means patients may wait longer for treatments.  Another 19% are undecided on this question and 18% do not agree with either position.  

When it comes to rising health care costs, 46% say research to improve health is part of the solution, while 28% are not sure and 26% say research is part of the problem. Meanwhile, 41% say that the roughly 1.5% of government spending allocated for biomedical and health research is not enough. Nearly one-third (29%) say it is about right, 21% are not sure and 9% say it is too much. And a plurality (44%) say they are willing to pay $1 per week more in taxes if they were certain that all of the money would be spent on additional medical research, while 32% say no and 24% are not sure.

“Our polls show that Americans view research as an economic driver as well as being the answer to health threats that continue to outrun us,” said Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley. “Americans expect our elected officials to provide sufficient resources and 21st century policies to speed development of the therapies, devices, prevention and cures necessary to save lives and maintain our global competitiveness.”

Investing in research is important to job creation, technological breakthroughs and economic growth, according to a strong majority of those surveyed (79%), and more than half (53%) say it is important that the federal research and development tax credit, which helps businesses plan ahead when it comes to R&D spending, is made permanent even when told the federal government loses billions in revenue annually with this credit.

“America’s physicians witness each day the difference that medical and scientific innovation makes in the lives of patients,” said American Medical Association CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, M.D. “Like Research!America, the American Medical Association is committed to improving the health of the nation and ardently supports funding for medical research that not only generates lifesaving discoveries, but also fuels economic growth by increasing jobs and productivity, and helps control health care costs.”

Currently, only 27% of Americans believe the U.S. has the best health care system in the world. More than half (57%) say it is important that the U.S. is a leader in medical and health research. Twenty-six percent say it does not matter where in the world medical and health research takes place, U.S. consumers will benefit regardless, and 18% are not sure.

Among other findings highlighted in the booklet:

  • Confidence in the current system in the U.S. for evaluating the safety of vaccines and recommendation for when they should be given dropped to nearly half (56%), compared to 85% in 2008.
  • 56% of Americans favor expanding federal funding for research using embryonic stem cells.
  • More than half (55%) of Americans are willing to share their personal health information to advance medical research. An even higher percentage (60%) say they will share personal health information so that health care providers can improve patient care, and 46% percent are willing to share information so public health officials can better track disease and disability and their causes.
  • 73% of Americans say the federal government should assign a higher priority to improving education focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and careers in those fields.
  • Studies show that certain health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and infant mortality happen more often among minorities or citizens with lower incomes. More than two-thirds of Americans (69%) say it is important to conduct medical or health research to understand and eliminate these differences.

The poll data summary also includes national public opinion polling on eye and vision research. To view America Speaks, Volume 15, visit: http://www.researchamerica.or/AmericaSpeaksVolume15.This publication is made possible through a contribution from the American Medical Association.

Research!America began commissioning polls in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America’s polls have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific polling. Poll data is available by request or at

Online polls are conducted with a sample size of approximately 1,000 U.S. adults (age 18+) with a maximum theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.2%. Data are demographically representative of adult U.S. residents. Polling in this publication was conducted by Zogby Analytics.

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