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Americans cite inflation as top problem facing the country

Two years after the start of the pandemic, less than 20% of Americans still believe COVID-19 is a very big problem

A Pew Research Center survey released Thursday indicates that inflation is the most concerning issue facing the U.S. public, as a declining share of Americans say the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment and racism are big problems.

Of the over 5,000 U.S. adults surveyed between April and May of this year, 70% said inflation is a very big problem. Twenty-three percent considered inflation to be a moderately big problem and 6% saw it as a small problem.

The concern over inflation was surveyed alongside 11 other issues: the affordability of health care, violent crime, gun violence, federal budget deficit, climate change, quality of K-12 public schools, illegal immigration, racism, condition of physical infrastructure, unemployment and the coronavirus pandemic.

Coming in after inflation were the cost of healthcare and violent crime, considered to be a very big problem by 55% and 54% of respondents, respectively. Gun violence and the federal budget deficit were seen as very big problems for 51% of Americans. 

Forty-two percent of Americans said climate change is a very big problem facing the country, with 27% seeing it as a moderately big problem, 19% believing it is a small problem and 11% not seeing it as an issue at all.

During the pandemic, many schools shut down and forced teachers to move to virtual classrooms. That stress coupled with calls from Republican leaders across the country to ban so-called critical race theory from the classroom led to many teachers leaving the profession. Pew researchers found that equal 39% shares of Americans see the quality of K-12 public education as a very big or moderately big issue, with 18% considering it to be a small problem.

Illegal immigration has also captured the public’s attention with recent news of the Biden administration’s plan to end a Trump-era policy known as Title 42 that allowed for the removal of undocumented migrants for public health reasons. Thirty-eight percent of respondents cited illegal immigration as a very big problem, while 28% see the issue as a moderately big problem and 27% consider it a small problem. Eight percent of Americans do not see illegal immigration as a problem at all.

The survey also revealed that the issue of racism has fallen as a top issue in the minds of Americans. Today, 35% of Americans see the issue as a very big problem facing the country today. That is down by 10% since April of 2021. Thirty-four percent believe racism is a moderately big problem with 25% seeing it as a small problem and 6% not seeing it as a problem at all.

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The conditions of roads, bridges and other infrastructure was seen as a very big problem for 30% of respondents. Forty-seven percent saw it as a moderately big problem, compared to 22% who believe it to be a small problem. Since taking office, President Joe Biden has signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law that aims to repair crumbling roads and bridges, expand broadband internet, improve clean water access, repair the energy grid, and more.

Unemployment, an issue that affected millions during the pandemic, has fallen on the list of concerns facing the country. In June 2020, 50% of Americans saw joblessness as a very big problem, but in the recent survey only 23% said the same. Thirty-eight percent still see unemployment as a moderately big issue, with 30% seeing it as a smaller issue and 10% not seeing it as an issue at all.

When it comes to the pandemic itself, concern has plummeted. In June 2020, 58% of Americans saw the coronavirus as a very big issue. That number has now fallen to 19%, putting COVID-19 last on the list of 12 issues put to respondents. Thirty-eight percent of Americans see the pandemic as a moderately big problem and 31% believe it has now become a small problem. Twelve percent of Americans do not see the pandemic as an issue at all.

Breaking down these issues on partisan lines, Democrats believe climate change, gun violence, racism, health care affordability, the pandemic, and infrastructure are very big problems. Conversely, Republicans see issues like violent crime, inflation, the federal budget deficit and illegal immigration as very big problems.

The two parties were closest in concern on the issue of unemployment and K-12 public education. Twenty-one percent of Democrats and 22% of Republicans see unemployment as a very big issue. Similarly, 36% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans agree that the quality of public school education is a very big issue.

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Coming in after inflation were the cost of healthcare and violent crime.