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Gallup's Top 10 U.S. Findings of 2020
Gallup Blog

Gallup's Top 10 U.S. Findings of 2020

Gallup polling closely followed the key historic events of 2020, namely a pandemic unlike the world had seen in nearly a century and the associated sharp economic downturn. At the same time, the nation witnessed some worrisome trends in public concern about race relations and a decline in Americans' mental health ratings.

Here are some of our top findings from these and related issues in 2020:

  1. Impeachment and Economic Highs: The year began with a strong focus on President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial. Trump came out of the impeachment with an acquittal and a personal-best 49% approval rating. This coincided with a 20-year high in how Americans felt about the U.S. economy. As the year progressed, however, these sentiments would soon give way to some of the worst economic assessments seen in the United States since the Great Recession.

  2. Confidence in Government to Handle the Virus: As the pandemic began to shut down normal life for most, Americans had a high level of confidence in the national government's ability to tackle the challenge. In fact, confidence was significantly higher in the government's ability to handle the coronavirus outbreak than what we had found for previous health scares this millennium. Yet, as the pandemic wore on, Americans' approval of President Donald Trump's response to it declined -- and they rated their state governors much more positively for communicating a clear plan of action in response to COVID-19 than they did both Trump and the CDC.

  3. Social Distancing Skyrocketed: We saw rapid adoption of social distancing among Americans, including isolating themselves at home. Not only did this represent an unprecedented shift in human behavior within a short period, but it was also largely bipartisan, predating the political divisions that began to permeate almost all aspects of the pandemic in the months to follow.

  4. Americans' Wellbeing and Confidence in U.S. Economy Plunged: Along with the adoption of social distancing and the associated shock to U.S. commerce, Americans' confidence in the economy fell sharply between March and April, logging the biggest one-month change Gallup has recorded. In April, the percentage of Americans rating their lives well enough to be considered thriving plummeted, and then partially recovered later in the year. Also, in a separate measure, Americans' mental health assessments were down year over year.

  5. Race Relations and Policing Captured Americans' Focus in June: In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, the national focus shifted to policing reform and race relations. Americans' confidence in the police reached a historic low in 2020. More importantly, 19% of Black Americans expressed confidence in the police, a far cry from the 56% of White Americans holding this view. Concerns about race relations reached levels not seen since the 1960s.

  6. Two-Decade Low in Crime Victimization: Despite record-low confidence in the police, protests and sporadic acts of violence, looting, and social unrest in some cities, the smallest percentages of Americans in 20 years reported being victims of personal or household crime.

  7. Economic Ratings Improved by Election Day: While still in negative territory in October, Americans' view of the U.S. economy as measured by the Gallup Economic Confidence Index was improved compared with the sharply lower scores recorded in the spring. When combined with the low percentage of Americans naming the economy as the nation's top problem and the relatively high percentage approving of Trump's job performance on the economy, the national economy did not appear to be a major liability -- or asset -- for the president heading into the election. Trump's overall job approval rating at the time of the election was 46%. He went on to receive 47% of the popular vote.

  8. The Ebb and Flow of Willingness to Get Vaccinated: After seeing Americans' willingness to receive a free, FDA-approved coronavirus vaccine drop from 66% in July to 50% in September, we found support rebounding to 63% in November -- shortly after news broke that one vaccine nearing approval was more than 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. The trend was marked with a significant partisan gap, reflecting different sensitivities around the need for and perceived safety of the vaccine.

  9. U.S. Mood Sours as Year Ends: The national mood soured considerably as the year closed out. Assessments of the economic situation, as well as approval of leadership in the White House and Congress, declined as Trump continued to challenge the outcome of the election and leaders struggled to advance a second relief bill for the American public aimed at addressing some of the economic damage they incurred over the year.

  10. Nurses Come Out on Top: As nurses, doctors and other medical professionals stepped up to be the true heroes of 2020, and teachers strived to educate America's youth facing unprecedented risks and challenges, Americans rated the ethics of nurses and grade-school teachers higher than ever before. Americans' confidence in the medical system and in public schools also showed rare double-digit increases this year.


Mohamed Younis is Gallup's Editor-in-Chief.

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