Americans Sound Off On How Trump, Congress Are Handling Opioid Crisis

By Paul Gaita 10/11/17

According to a new poll, 6 out of 10 respondents feel the president is "not doing enough" to address the crisis.

President Donald Trump

Six out of 10 adults in the United States believe that President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress have not made the necessary effort to address the national opioid crisis. Those are among the findings from a new poll conducted by a PBS NewsHour and Marist Poll, which looked at public opinion on the impact of opioid dependency on communities across the U.S.

Surprisingly, while the majority of respondents believed that the current administration has not been taking the necessary steps to contend with opioid abuse and overdose in America, more than half did not regard the crisis as a national emergency.

The poll surveyed more than 1,000 American adults randomly selected and contacted via phone. The results showed that while two-thirds of respondents believed that the opioid crisis had grown worse over the past year, a full 58% regarded the issue as a "major problem" but did not believe that the current situation constituted the state of emergency recommended by Governor Chris Christie and the other members of the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis. President Trump has verbally declared the crisis a national emergency, but has yet to enact any legal measures to support his statement. 

When asked about actions by the Trump administration to address the opioid crisis, six out of 10 respondents—85% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans—said that the president's actions were insufficient. Nearly three-quarters of respondents reserved their most negative opinion for Congress, which they viewed as having failed to appropriately address the opioid issue, while seven of 10 respondents viewed federal agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services in a similar light.

Despite this negative view, one-third of respondents believed that federal officials should lead the charge in the fight against opioid dependency, while 28% and 21% stated that state or local governments, respectively, are the best agencies to address the problem.

But in regard to making treatment available as part of national health care, half of respondents believed that it was important, but not their primary concern—only a third of those surveyed believed that addiction treatment was a key component to any health care reform efforts.

As for the future, four out of 10 respondents believed that the opioid problem in America will remain unchanged over the next year, while an additional third think that the crisis will worsen over time.

However, an overwhelming majority (93%) said they do not express any or much concern about becoming addicted to opioids themselves.

Such a dichotomy of opinions reflected in a single poll reflected what Marist Institute for Public Opinion Lee Miringoff described as "a gap between people's awareness of this being a problem and the sense that someone's actually stepping up to the plate and addressing it."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.