This year was a momentous one to report on. From public opinion in the U.S. to views around the globe, 2023 was chock full of shifts creating some notable highs and lows. Spanning U.S. politics and economics, global conflict, the workplace, wellbeing, and more, here are the 12 most notable findings our team uncovered this year.
1. Russia’s Soft Power Fades
As the war raged on in Ukraine, Russia lost much of its soft power around the world -- even in many key parts of Europe and Central Asia. Whether it’s a decline in approval of Russia’s leadership or a decline in those identifying as Russian in key parts of Moscow’s historical sphere of influence, the war in Ukraine has cost Russia more than soldiers and hardware. As a new year begins, and the war drags on, how much more soft power Russia loses will be a key question for 2024.
2. China as Greatest Enemy of U.S.
This year was also defined by the growing tensions between China and the U.S. Despite efforts to quell those tensions throughout 2023, Americans perceive China as the No. 1 enemy to the U.S. Not long ago, Russia (in 2019) and North Korea (in 2018) earned that status among the U.S. public -- but both the pandemic and Beijing’s lukewarm support for Russia in the Ukraine war have brought China’s image to an all-time low among Americans.
3. The Manager Squeeze
In the workplace, we found that while disruptive change and fears of economic uncertainty loom large, the biggest threat to productivity and talent retention may be overwhelmed managers. Our reporting uncovered a major shift taking place in America’s workforce: managers feeling the squeeze and seeking greener pastures elsewhere.
4. Trust in Media
One of the megatrends of our times unfolding in the U.S. has been the collapse in public confidence in the news that Americans consume. After a brief measured recovery in 2018, mostly driven by Democrats as former President Donald Trump increased his expressions of ire toward the news media, the percentage of Americans expressing “a great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the news media is back to a historic low. A record-high 39% say they have no trust at all in the media.
5. NATO and EU Aspirations
Another outcome of the war in Ukraine in 2023 has been the growth of NATO to include Finland. Ukrainians have recently moved one step closer to joining the EU, with the EU agreeing to start negotiations. This is echoed in public sentiment among Ukrainians to join NATO and the EU -- a sentiment that has not lost any strength and is likely quite troubling for Moscow.
6. Public Confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court
After overturning the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade last year, public confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court remains at a relative low. As the court continues to take on more cases that place it at the center of public discourse -- a discourse now highly defined by the hyper-partisanship of our times -- it will be critical to track Americans’ level of confidence in the institution.
7. Safety of Money in Banks
On the economic front, amid a series of bank failures earlier this year, we discovered that nearly half of Americans were worried about the safety of their cash in U.S. banks. The concerns were highest among those on the lower spectrum of the income scale as well as among Republicans and independents. In an era of low confidence in major U.S. institutions, banks are suffering a confidence drought as well.
8. Young Adults Drinking Less
As mocktails became all the rage in 2023, a three-year analysis of our drinking habits data revealed that younger Americans reported drinking less than previous generations of young adults. With the legalization of marijuana and other substances, this trend may have been partly explained by young people’s reliance on other substances that are now easier to access. But will the lull in young adults' drinking stand the test of time? Stay tuned to this one for our reporting in August.
9. Black Life and Tainted Water
One of the most important findings of the year out of the Gallup Center on Black Voices was the relatively high concern among Black and Hispanic Americans about pollution in the water they drink. Black and Hispanic Americans were over 20 percentage points more likely than White Americans to say they worry a great deal about pollution in the water they consume.
10. Watching Our Weight
With the New Year’s resolution season upon us, we took a longer look at how Americans are doing when it comes to their physical health and found a six-point increase since 2019 in the percentage of U.S. adults falling into the “obese” category. We also found that healthy eating habits have eroded over that same period, with the sharpest decline in healthy eating occurring among those aged 30 to 44.
11. Bad Grades for Higher Education
Our coverage this year also revealed a consistent decline in Americans’ confidence in higher education institutions. What has been described by many as the great equalizer in American society is facing an image crisis as the rate of those expressing a great deal of confidence in colleges and universities declined for a third time.
12. Party ID Shifting?
Our reporting this year found a slight rebound in 2022 in the percentage of U.S. adults identifying as Republicans. But the real elephant in the room is that dotted line, showing the staying power in the percentage of those identifying as independents. Gallup will provide an update on 2023 party identification in January, which will serve as an important marker for the presidential contest that will begin in earnest next month.
And those are our 12 most notable findings of 2023. From all of us at Gallup, we wish a fruitful and wellbeing-rich 2024 for you and your loved ones.
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