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Fewer in U.S. Cite Coronavirus as Most Important Problem

Fewer in U.S. Cite Coronavirus as Most Important Problem

Story Highlights

  • 20% say COVID-19 is top problem, lowest since start of pandemic
  • Citations of government down; race relations, immigration up
  • 34% satisfied with the way things are going in U.S., highest in over a year

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With millions of Americans being vaccinated against COVID-19 every day and states increasingly loosening restrictions, the public is now less likely to say the coronavirus is the most important problem facing the nation than at any point since March 2020. Twenty percent currently name the coronavirus, down from 25% last month, but considerably lower than the April 2020 high point of 45% when residents in many states were living under stay-at-home orders.


Line graph. Percentage of Americans mentioning the coronavirus as the most important problem facing the U.S. since March 2020. Currently, 20% mention it, the lowest since 13% in March 2020.

Although fewer U.S. adults cite COVID-19 than have done so for more than a year, it is still the top problem, and immigration (14%), the government (14%) and race relations (12%) are named as the next most pressing issues.

In addition to the five-percentage-point decline in mentions of COVID-19, the government (-6 points) and the economy (-4 points) fell since last month. At the same time, the percentages naming immigration (+6 points) and race relations (+4 points) as the nation's top problem ticked up.

Most Important Problem in U.S., March-April 2021
What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? [OPEN-ENDED]
Mar. 2021 Apr. 2021 Change
% % pct. pts.
Coronavirus/Diseases 25 20 -5
The government 20 14 -6
Immigration 8 14 6
Race Relations 8 12 4
Economy 8 4 -4

These changes, from the latest Gallup poll conducted April 1-21, are largely reflective of recent public opinion on these issues. Specifically, Americans are largely satisfied with the vaccine rollout and are less worried about contracting COVID-19 than they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. Likewise, approval of President Joe Biden remains relatively high and economic confidence is better than it has been in over a year. The decreases in mentions of COVID-19, the government and economic concerns as the greatest U.S. problem are likely owed, at least in part, to these attitudes.

Meanwhile, the increase in mentions of immigration comes as the Biden administration continues to struggle with record numbers of migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border.

The latest poll's field period also coincided with most of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who was ultimately found guilty of manslaughter and second-degree murder and third-degree murder of George Floyd. This, along with a recent spate of news around several deaths of Black people caused by police, has likely contributed to the increase in citations of race relations as the nation's most important problem. Still, mentions of race relations are not as high as they were last year in the aftermath of Floyd's death and nationwide calls for racial justice.

Partisans' Starkly Different Views of Nation's Most Important Problem

As with most things in the U.S. today, there is little common ground between partisans when it comes to their assessments of the top problem in the nation. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents cite immigration (25%) and the government (20%) as the top problems, and 13% name COVID-19.

In contrast, COVID-19 is the top overall problem among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents at 27%, followed by race relations at 19%. All other problems register in the single digits among Democrats. While race relations is one of Democrats' chief concerns, just 4% of Republicans mention the issue.

Most Important Problem in the U.S.
What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? [OPEN-ENDED]
U.S. adults Republican/Lean Republican Democrat/Lean Democrat
% % %
Coronavirus/Diseases 20 13 27
Immigration 14 25 5
The government 14 20 7
Race relations 12 4 19
Unifying the country 6 6 7
Economy in general 4 6 4
Unemployment/Jobs 3 3 2
Environment 3 <1 6
Crime/Violence 3 2 3
Moral/Ethical/Family decline 3 4 2
Healthcare 3 2 3
Mentions of issues with less than 3% not shown
GALLUP, Apr. 1-21, 2021

Satisfaction With Direction of Country Remains Elevated

Americans' satisfaction with the direction of the country is now at 34%, little changed from last month's 32%, but is the highest since March 2020 when 42% were satisfied. Satisfaction has tripled since January when it hit its lowest point in a decade; still, roughly two-thirds of Americans, 65%, remain dissatisfied.


Line graph. Satisfaction with the direction of the U.S. among Americans since April 2019. The latest 34% satisfaction rating on the metric is up 23 percentage points since January.

The recent rise in satisfaction is owed almost entirely to Democrats and independents. While 51% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are satisfied, 16% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are.

Approval of Congress Down Slightly, but Still High on Relative Basis

Americans' 33% job approval rating of Congress is down slightly from last month's 36%, which was a 12-year high.


Line graph. Americans' approval of the way Congress is handling its job since January 2008. Currently, 33% of U.S. adults approve, which marks a three-percentage point decline from last month.

The increase in congressional approval reflects Democrats' greater positivity toward the institution since the party took control of the presidency and both houses of Congress. Approval of the legislative branch remains highly polarized in the current survey, with Democrats and Democratic leaners (52%) four times more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners (13%) to approve.

Bottom Line

Biden is marking his first 100 days in office with an address before both houses of Congress. The general mood among Americans is better than it has been for much of the previous year. Biden's job approval rating is a solid 57%, the public is feeling more positive about the fight against COVID-19, and assessments of the economy are at their highest point in over a year.

Yet, he is facing some tough issues in addition to the pandemic and the economy. The crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border has resulted in an uptick in concern about immigration (mainly among Republicans), and mentions of race relations as the nation's greatest problem have increased (mostly among Democrats).

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

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