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The Nation's Pulse: Americans' Top Priorities And The Direction Of The Country

Key issues in an election year

Photo by DAVIDCOHEN / Unsplash
  • Over one-third prioritizes the economy as the country's most important issue
  • Immigration/border security and national debt/federal government spending are the other top concerns
  • Nearly two-thirds express dissatisfaction with the direction of the country

What are Americans' priorities as we near the end of the first half of 2024?

Thirty-seven percent of Americans identified the economy as the country's most important issue, followed by immigration and border security at 34 percent. National debt/federal government spending and crime were also significant concerns, each cited by 18 percent of survey respondents.

These results are from the latest TIPP Poll, which surveyed 1,910 Americans and was completed in late May. The poll asked participants, "What are the top three issues facing the country?"

Ten other issues received double-digit responses: homelessness (16%), gun violence/gun control (16%), health care (15%), trust in government/politicians (15%), climate change (14%), home affordability (13%), abortion (13%), the 2024 election (12%), threats to democracy (12%), lack of unity/division in the country (11%), and mental health (10%).

Meanwhile, terrorism/national security (9%), the Israel-Hamas conflict (8%), the Russia/Ukraine situation and global security (8%), racial justice (7%), China-U.S. relations (5%), and the coronavirus (2%) are in the bottom tier, each garnering under ten percent.

Only 27% of Americans approve of President Biden's handling of the economy.
Asylum seekers from China, South America and the Middle East wait near the border wall. The immigrant population has exploded by an unprecedented 6.4 million under President Biden. Photo: Getty Images

Priorities varied along party and ideological lines.

For Democrats, the top issues were the economy (27%), gun violence/gun control (23%), abortion (22%), climate change (21%), and health care (20%).

Republicans, on the other hand, prioritized immigration and border security (53%), the economy (45%), national debt/government spending (25%), and crime (21%).

Independents aligned more closely with Republicans, with their top issues being the economy (40%), immigration/border security (32%), national debt/government spending (19%), homelessness (19%), and trust in government/politicians (19%).

Top Economic Issues

Inflation (47%), food prices (43%), people’s ability to pay their bills (23%), and gasoline prices (23%)  are among the top three economic issues facing Americans.

From a list of 21 economy-related issues, the survey respondents picked their top three concerns.

Home affordability (22%), government spending (20%), recession (17%), tax rates (15%), rising interest rates (15%), and lack of good jobs (11%) received double-digit responses.

The average retail price of a gallon of gasoline on June 3 is $3.638

Direction Of Country

Each month, the TIPP Poll probes the general sentiment​ about the country’s direction using the survey question, "In general, how satisfied are you with the direction that the country is going in at this time?"

Nearly two-thirds (63%) are dissatisfied with the country’s direction. 36% said they are not at all satisfied, and 27% are not very satisfied. Most Republicans (85%) and independents (69%) expressed dissatisfaction. Over one-half (59%) of Democrats are satisfied.

We also compute a compact index from responses to the question. The index ranges from 0 to 100. A score of 50 or above is positive, below 50 is negative, and 50 is neutral.

Overall, the index entered the negative zone in September 2021 and has remained there for 34 months. The June reading is 36.0.

Democrats have the most optimistic reading, at 57.7, while Republicans have the lowest score (19.47), indicating extreme pessimism. Independents are in the middle at 29.6.

Democrats fell 25.4 points from a high of 77.3 in April 2021 to 57.7 this month - a 25% drop. Their median during Biden’s presidency is 60.7

Republicans' slide began after the elections in November 2020, and they have been posting pessimistic readings (under 50) for 43 months in a row, with a median of 20.7 during Biden's presidency.

Independents’ median during Biden's presidency is 31.2.

Americans’ economic confidence also plummeted in June. The nation faces a protracted stagflation, an economic slowdown accompanied by inflation. With high food prices and near-stagnant income, households are forced to tighten their budgets. Uncontrolled immigration and rising crime rates are making matters worse. With poll numbers falling even among Democrats, it is clear that the nation's leadership has their work cut out for them.

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