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Inflation, Immigration Rank Among Top U.S. Issue Concerns

Inflation, Immigration Rank Among Top U.S. Issue Concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Amid the heightened numbers of migrants entering the United States at the Southern border and discord in the Middle East, Americans have grown more anxious about immigration and terrorism over the past year. At the same time, with the inflation rate down from 2023, public concern about that issue has eased. Nevertheless, more Americans still say they worry about inflation than any of 13 other issues rated in the new survey.

Gallup finds a slightly different rank-order of concerns with its “most important problem facing this country" question. For the second straight month, immigration leads Americans’ unprompted answers about what most ails the nation, with inflation also figuring prominently.

Six Issues Worrisome to Majority of Americans

Gallup asks Americans to rate their concern about a variety of national issues each March as part of its Environment poll. This year’s survey, conducted March 1-20, asked respondents about 14 different issues, most of which have been tracked regularly since 2001.

The 55% of Americans who worry “a great deal” about inflation is just slightly above the percentages concerned about five other domestic issues that are troubling to majorities of Americans. These are crime and violence (53%), hunger and homelessness (52%), the economy (52%), the availability and affordability of healthcare (51%), and federal spending and the budget deficit (51%).

Another four issues are highly concerning to less than half but at least four in 10 Americans: illegal immigration (48%), drug use (45%), the Social Security system (43%) and the possibility of future terrorist attacks in the U.S. (43%).

In addition, fewer than four in 10 worry a great deal about the availability and affordability of energy (37%) and the quality of the environment (37%). Race relations (35%) and unemployment (33%) garner the least concern, with about a third highly worried about each.


Immigration Is Americans’ Top Unprompted Concern

Gallup also measures Americans’ views of national concerns monthly by asking them to name, unprompted, what they believe is the most important problem facing the country today. This question format is asked before the list of issue concerns in the survey and yields a slightly different conclusion, finding immigration ranking ahead of inflation. Overall, 28% of Americans, the same as in February and the most for any issue, name immigration as the top problem. That essentially ties the 27% reading from July 2019 as the highest since Gallup started compiling mentions of immigration in 1981.

Mentions of government and poor leadership, combined, rank second (at 19%), while the economy in general is next with 14%, followed by inflation at 11%.

Despite being among the highest-rated concerns when asked about directly, poverty and homelessness (6%) and crime (3%) are further down the list in top-of-mind mentions.


Immigration, Terrorism Concerns Rose Over Past Year; Inflation, Economy Waned Slightly

Americans grew less concerned about two economic issues over the past year: the economy in general (down eight points) and inflation, specifically (down six points).

Both declines most likely reflect the near halving of the inflation rate over this period, from 6% just before the start of last year's poll to 3.2% prior to this year's.

Meanwhile, public concern about two of the 14 issues rated in the poll -- illegal immigration and the possibility of future terrorist attacks in the U.S. -- has grown.

The percentage worried a great deal about illegal immigration has increased seven percentage points, from 41% in March 2023 to 48% today. This mostly reflects a near doubling of concern among Democrats, from 14% to 27%. Concern has edged slightly higher among independents (rising from 39% to 44%), while it has been steady at a high level among Republicans (74% in 2023 and 73% today).

Although migrant border crossings are down from the record-smashing numbers experienced in December, they remain much higher than they were before 2021, with February’s crossings the highest on record for that month.

Concern about future terrorist attacks also has grown by seven points since last year, from 36% to 43%, with increases seen among all party groups. However, overall concern about the issue still doesn’t match the higher levels of concern it garnered in 2015 (51%), 2016 (48%) and the early 2000s (49%).

The public's elevated concern about terrorism may partly stem from FBI Director Christopher Wray’s recent warnings to Congress about an increased potential for terrorist attacks in the U.S. In testimony before Congress, he said the risk of terrorism has increased significantly since Hamas’ attack on Israel last year, given the backlash against the United States’ position on the resulting conflict. This intersects with public concern about illegal immigration, as Wray also reported that some migrant smuggling networks have ties to ISIS and other terrorist organizations.


Republicans Much More on Edge Than Democrats About Issues

Substantial differences in concern about issues are seen by political party, with Republicans much more likely than Democrats to worry a great deal about most of the issues. The gap is particularly wide for federal spending and the deficit (49 points), illegal immigration (46 points), and inflation (37 points).

Democrats are more concerned than Republicans about four of the 14 issues, by relatively modest margins: race relations (with a 25-point gap), the quality of the environment (20 points), the availability and affordability of healthcare (17 points), and hunger and homelessness (nine points).

Given the potential importance of political independents to deciding this year’s presidential election, the candidates may want to note that this group’s top issue concerns are hunger and homelessness (59%), inflation (55%), the availability and affordability of healthcare (53%), and crime and violence (52%). Like Republicans, independents are least concerned about race relations, followed by the environment.


On the unaided Most Important Problem question, fully half of Republicans (52%) cite immigration as the nation’s top problem, making it their primary unprompted concern.

Immigration also ranks as the top issue among independents, mentioned by 21%, although this is closely matched by the government, at 19%. Democrats are most likely to cite aspects of government and U.S. leadership (28%), including Donald Trump, with immigration second (12%).

Bottom Line

As the presumptive presidential nominees make their cases to voters, Americans may be most interested in what they have to say about inflation, crime, immigration, and the economy more broadly. They may also want to know what the next president will do to ensure that important aspects of the nation’s safety net for citizens are intact, with majorities expressing high concern about hunger and homelessness and access to affordable healthcare.

Immigration’s status as the most prominent top-of-mind issue for Americans signals that a major segment of the electorate is acutely focused on this issue.

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