By CONNIE CASS, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Confused by President Barack Obama’s health care law? How about the debate over government surveillance? The way the Federal Reserve affects interest rates?
You’re far from alone.
Most people in the United States say the issues facing the country are getting harder to fathom.
It’s not just those tuning out politics who feel perplexed.
People who vote regularly, follow news about November’s election or simply feel a civic duty to stay informed are most likely to say that issues have become “much more complicated” over the past decade, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows.
Karla Lynn of Lavaca, Arkansas, blames politicians who would rather snipe at each other than honestly explain the nation’s problems in straightforward terms.
“They’ll spin everything,” said Lynn, 61, a retired product developer. “You’ve got to wade through so much muck to try to find the truth.”
David Stewart blames the deluge from social media, partisan blogs and 24-hour news sites for complicating things.
At one time people would only see a news story about a violent organization such as the Islamic State group, he said, but now they watch the militants’ videos of beheadings online.
“People get a little overwhelmed by all the information about what’s going on in the world,” said Stewart, 40, a salesman at a home improvement store in Georgetown, Kentucky. The father of three said it takes time from an already busy life to go online and sort out “what’s fluff, what’s been engineered, and what’s actually true and believable.”
The issue that stumps Stewart most? The health care overhaul.
Nearly three-fourths of Americans find it difficult, according to the AP-GfK poll, and about 4 in 10 say it’s very hard to understand.
The law is complex; politicians even say so.
Republicans were condemning it as a regulatory morass even before it passed. When the federal website enrolling people crashed last year, Obama himself pointed to the enormous size of the undertaking. “It’s complicated,” he said. “It’s hard.”
Politicians do try to make issues sound simpler. They like to invoke your own family budget when talking about the national debt.
But in the poll, confidence in dealing with household problems didn’t offer much help in understanding national matters.
For example, most under age 30 said it’s easy to protect your privacy and financial information online. But most young adults think it’s hard to understand the National Security Agency’s data collection programs. Americans older than 50 find both personal computer security and the NSA issue difficult.
Interest rates? Wealthier people are more likely to find rates on personal loans easy to understand. But the poll shows no difference by income in comprehending the Fed’s interest rate policy.
Then there are international issues.
In his speech to the United Nations last week, Obama spoke of terrorists in Iraq and Syria as the type of danger that threatens a faster-paced, interconnected world.
What began 13 years ago as a U.S. campaign to destroy al-Qaida has evolved into battles against numerous offshoots.
“Right now, in my estimation, the problems are much more variegated and much more complex and diffuse than they’ve ever been,” said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University historian who has studied terrorism for four decades.
Among Americans strongly interested in political news, nearly 6 in 10 say political issues facing the United States are “much more complicated” than a decade ago.
Of course, creating Medicare and waging the Cold War weren’t easy.
Perhaps nostalgia blurs people’s judgment of current troubles?
Sheila Suess Kennedy, director of the Indiana University Center for Civic Literacy, thinks there’s more to it.
“Not only are we dealing with a more complex environment, we are dealing with a more ambiguous environment,” Kennedy said. “People want ‘this is good and this is bad.’ Increasingly we live with ‘there’s black and there’s white and there’s a whole lot of gray.’”
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 24-28 using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Results from online interviews with 1,044 adults have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. Some question wording used in this survey comes from the General Social Survey, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost.
AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.
Full story: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/356e4efefb204b10b2330ac28d7a03eb/poll-confused-issues-day-join-club
Topline results and methodology: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com
Parents are worried about their children playing football, but most haven’t decided to keep their kids from putting on a helmet and stepping onto the field.
According to an Associated Press-GfK poll, nearly half of parents said they’re not comfortable letting their child play football amid growing uncertainty about the long-term impact of concussions.
In the poll, 44 percent of parents weren’t comfortable with their child playing football. The same percentage was uncomfortable with ice hockey, and 45 percent were uncomfortable with participation in wrestling. Only five percent, though, said they have discouraged their child from playing in the last two years as concern over head injuries has increased at all levels of the game.
The majority of parents said they are comfortable with participation in a host of other sports — including swimming, track and field, basketball, soccer, baseball and softball, among others.
The AP-GfK poll was conducted from July 24-28. It included interviews with 1,044 adults and has a sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
The parents’ concern comes as several high-profile lawsuits have challenged how concussions have been addressed in pro and college sports. Thousands of pro players sued the NFL and a $675 million settlement that would compensate them for concussion-related claims is pending. A tentative settlement with the NCAA, meanwhile, would create a $70 million fund to test thousands of current and former college athletes for brain trauma.
Youth and high school programs have increased training available for coaches, and helmet companies are releasing new designs with the hope that they reduce the force of impact. But research is murky about whether or not they will be effective.
Participation statistics also show only a slight decline in the overall number of high school students playing football.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, nearly 1.1 million students played 11-man football during the 2012-13 school year. The number was down approximately 10,000 from the year before and more than 20,000 since 2009-08.
Cathy Curtin, a high school rifle coach in northeast Pennsylvania, is one parent who has discouraged her children from playing football in recent years.
Curtin, 52, has gone through concussion-related training for her job, but one issue that concerns her is how much of identifying a head injury relies on the student’s input following a collision. She said her 21-year-old son “would have said anything” to remain in the game while in high school, including hiding symptoms such as dizziness from a trainer or coach.
“Our training staff is good, but you can’t always know,” Curtin said. “You’re basing whether they can play on their say. And they are 16-year-old kids, 17-year-old kids who want more than anything to get out there and play.”
Curtin said her younger son broke his collarbone and leg while playing football as a freshman.
“Nowhere in that time did they check him for a concussion,” Curtin said. “So, if he got hit hard enough to break his collar bone and his leg, then how hard did he hit the ground, too?”
Football wasn’t the only sport Curtin said she was uncomfortable with. She also worries about hockey, wrestling and other high-impact competitions such as gymnastics and cheerleading. She’s encouraged by new advances — such as chin straps that change color when a player may have suffered a concussion — aimed at reducing and identifying head injuries, but she is also skeptical about school districts’ ability to afford new helmets.
JeMare Williams, 43, is no stranger to the possibility of getting a concussion while playing football. He thinks he “probably” suffered from one while in high school in St. Louis.
“I don’t really know, but I remember being hurt, being dizzy,” Williams said. “But during that time, there wasn’t a specific diagnosis like now.”
Now living in Henderson, Nevada, and with 17- and 11-year-old sons who play the game, Williams — an auto mechanic — has the same injury concerns as many parents. That said, he’s comfortable with his sons playing football — or any other sport they choose.
One of the primary reasons for Williams’ comfort level is because of the increased attention paid to head injuries over the last few years. He said coaches are trained more closely now to teach proper tackling techniques, as well as watch players for signs of concussions.
“There’s a lot of publicity on (concussions) now, and I think that makes it better,” Williams said. “So, I’m not as worried now.”