The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an agency which often courts controversy. It's blamed when drugs are approved too quickly and are later found to be unsafe; it's blamed when the public believes it's approving drugs too slowly, and it regularly finds itself in the center of political battles between opposing political parties.
But according to a new survey by the polling group Nielsen, the agency must be an equal opportunity offender, because it attracts fairly uniform—and high levels of—support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
The poll, published 26 February 2015, surveyed 2,232 US adults in January 2015 regarding their opinions about some of the US' largest government institutions.
The good news for FDA: It has excellent brand-name recognition.
Ninety-two percent of survey participants said they understood what FDA is and does—the highest level recorded in the poll, beating out iconic government institutions like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA).
|Percentage Of Americans Who Understand What Each Government Agency Does|
The high degree of name and mission recognition may reflect the scope of FDA's regulatory authority. The agency frequently claims that it regulates about one quarter of consumer goods sold in the US, including drugs, medical devices, biological products, blood and tissue products, cosmetics, food, tobacco and lasers.
Next, the survey asked participants about how they perceived each regulatory agency. Here, FDA's performance was more mixed. A majority (57%) of respondents said they thought FDA does either an "excellent" (9%) or "pretty good" (48%) job, while 34% of respondents said FDA does an "only fair" job and 9% think FDA does a "poor" job.
|Overall, how would you rate the job each of these federal government agencies does?|
| ||Excellent||Pretty Good||Only Fair||Poor|
FDA's net positive ratings have fallen since Nielsen (through its polling group Harris Interactive) first began polling in 2000, the data show.
|Percentage Of Americans Who Think FDA is Doing an "Excellent" or "Pretty Good" Job|
Uniform Political Support
The survey also contains interesting data on which groups are most likely to support FDA. Of particular note to pollsters: "The FDA represents a rare point of party unity, with both Republicans (58%) and Democrats (62%) more likely than Independents (48%) to give the agency positive ratings," pollsters explained in their report summary.
That's remarkably different from other agencies which routinely court controversy, including FDA's parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which is supported by 66% of Democrats but just 49% of Republicans.