Hot button topics that will shape elections to come

With the Affordable Care Act moving closer to reality with expanded implementation next month, the two big enemies that remain front and center for the American public are big government and the healthcare industry.

With the Affordable Care Act moving closer to reality with expanded implementation next month, the two big enemies that remain front and center for the American public are big government and the healthcare industry.

The numbers paint the picture in this year's Pulse Survey by the Public Affairs Council. Fifty-six percent of Americans have unfavorable attitudes toward the federal government, and health insurance companies and pharma rank at the top in terms of industry sectors viewed as less trustworthy, by 49% and 46%, respectively.

And, it's worth noting that almost one in three Americans (31%) do not trust either major companies or the federal government, while 24% trust both.

While the Affordable Care Act has been a lightning rod around the debate over the government's role in regulation, as we approach the 2014 and 2016 election cycles, we can expect to see a continued uptick in the volatility volume around the need for more regulation. Based on the current PAC Pulse Survey, 52% of the American public believes government regulation does more harm than good — the highest percentage of respondents expressing this sentiment in nearly 20 years.

This topic is sure to generate fierce vitriol in Congress leading up to the potential game-changing elections next year and open the door for Republicans to take back the White House in 2016.

One thing is certain: the PR and political sectors will have plenty to work with in representing the divergent points of view as we go forward.

As an aside, younger Americans have a more favorable attitude of the federal government and big business — 51% of Millennials give the federal government favorable scores, and nearly four in five say big business is doing a good job creating jobs and providing useful products and services.

Welcome to Elections 2014.

Scott Widmeyer is the founder of Widmeyer Communications and currently is managing partner of Widmeyer, a Finn Partners company.

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