- Top priorities remain healthcare, education and the economy
- Majority sees income distribution as extremely/very important
- Three in four view drug abuse as extremely/very important
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As a new Congress takes office Thursday amid a partial government shutdown, most Americans see quite a few key issues as important for Congress and the White House to tackle this year. While education, healthcare and the economy once again rank as their top three priorities, majorities of U.S. adults also desire to see leaders tackle a host of pressing issues such as immigration, gun policy, the nation's infrastructure and the distribution of income and wealth across the nation.
|The federal budget deficit||76|
|The nation's infrastructure||72|
|U.S. trade and tariff policies||71|
|The distribution of income and wealth||62|
|(sorted by "extremely/very important")|
|GALLUP, Dec 3-12, 2018|
While most of the priorities remained stable, those saying education is extremely important was up (42%) compared with the last time the question was asked in 2014 (26%). However, one noticeable shift took place at the very bottom of the priority list -- the issue of income and wealth distribution.
As low unemployment has been coupled with slow wage growth, income inequality has gained importance among Americans. Sixty-two percent of Americans say it is either very or extremely important that the president and Congress deal with the issue of distribution of income and wealth within the country, up from Gallup's last measure of 57% in 2014.
Although it ranked lower than traditional issues, such as dealing with the federal budget deficit and immigration, the majority of Americans who see income distribution as important for leaders to deal with reflects how it has become a major issue of focus not only in the United States, but also other developed economies.
On a related note, Gallup recently found that rising numbers of Americans view socialism positively and associate it with some form of greater equality. Americans' increasing embrace of socialism, coupled with the fact that a majority view the issue of income distribution as important for national leaders, could mean a greater focus on such issues as the presidential campaign season begins its long march to 2020.
Three out of every four Americans view drug abuse as either an extremely or very important issue for the new Congress and the president to address this year. While this was the first time Gallup offered drug abuse as an answer choice, it's no surprise that 75% would cite this issue as important, with more than 100 daily deaths across the country related to opioid overdoses alone, as well as a rise in national overdose deaths in general. Recent research has shown it has also contributed to Americans' lower life expectancy.
Just a few months earlier, three in 10 Americans told Gallup that drug abuse had caused trouble in their family, a perception that has seen a steady increase since the mid-1990s. Slightly more Americans (37%) cite alcohol abuse as a cause of trouble in their family than cite drug abuse.
Despite the partisan contentions that many expect to define the working relationship between the incoming Congress and the Donald Trump White House amid a partial government shutdown, Americans are clear on what they want to see their leaders tackle in 2019.
With education, healthcare and the economy topping priorities as they have for the past several years, more specific concerns about drug abuse and the distribution of income and wealth also garnered widespread importance in the minds of most Americans. A majority of Americans also express a strong appetite for leadership to take action on issues such as the federal budget deficit and immigration.
There is a lot of common ground on the issues Americans want to see their leaders prioritize; a failure to effectively tackle those issues will likely continue to be reflected in low approval ratings for Congress.
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