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Immigration Named Top U.S. Problem for Third Straight Month

Immigration Named Top U.S. Problem for Third Straight Month

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A steady 27% of Americans say the most important problem facing the U.S. is immigration, topping Gallup’s open-ended trend for the third consecutive month, the longest stretch for this particular issue in the past 24 years.


The latest results are based on an April 1-22 Gallup survey, as elevated numbers of migrants continued to seek entry at the U.S. southern border. Immigration tied with the government as the top issue in December 2023, when the number of migrant encounters at the southern border set a record for a single month. In February, as a bipartisan measure to address the issue failed in the U.S. Senate, immigration overtook the government as the nation’s most important problem and has remained there since.

In addition to these recent instances, immigration has topped Gallup’s most important problem list four times since 2000 (either alone or tied with another issue), including at several points in 2014, 2018 and 2019. However, 2024 is the first time that immigration has remained the top issue for multiple successive months.

Other issues -- including the economy in general, the government, the Iraq War, inflation, COVID-19, unemployment and terrorism -- have held the top spot more often than immigration since Gallup began updating the most important problem question monthly in March 2001. Except for inflation and unemployment, all of the other issues have had longer consecutive runs as the top issue than immigration currently has.

The economy has been the top problem far more often than any other issue (101 times over the past 24 years), while the government has held the top spot 85 times and the Iraq War registered 50 top appearances.


Immigration Is Most Politically Polarizing Issue on Most Important Problem List

Republicans are far more likely than Democrats and independents to name immigration as the most important issue. In the latest poll, 48% of Republicans, compared with 8% of Democrats, mention immigration. Independents fall roughly in the middle, at 25%.

Republicans’ mention of the issue has come down from February, when a record-high 57% named it. Fewer Democrats now than in 2019 (when as many as 20% mentioned it) say immigration is the top problem. Meanwhile, independents’ latest mention of immigration is at a new high, although statistically similar readings were recorded in 2019 and in recent months.

The most important problem question is open-ended, allowing respondents to name up to three issues. Variation in the percentage of total mentions each month, generally ranging between 108% and 168% in the trend since 2000, creates additional possible error in how historical percentages (overall and by subgroup) should be interpreted.


Historically, Republicans have been much more likely than Democrats and independents to mention immigration as the biggest problem facing the U.S. The current 40-percentage-point gap in Republicans’ and Democrats’ mentions of immigration is among the largest party differences on record for this measure. It is identical to last month’s gap and second to February’s 47-point partisan difference on the same issue.

Examining Gallup’s most important problem trends by party shows that immigration is currently a uniquely polarizing issue. The gaps between Republicans and Democrats mentioning it this year are greater than for any other issue in the past 25 years.

The next most polarizing issue was the COVID-19 pandemic, which was named by far more Democrats (43%) than Republicans (8%) in February 2021, resulting in a 35-point gap. The Iraq War, the government and unemployment were also named by more Democrats than Republicans in past surveys, showing 20- to 24-point gaps. Terrorism was an especially Republican-centric concern, with a 20-point gap in September 2004.


Other problems have been cited by more Americans overall, although there was more agreement among partisans on their importance. For example, during the Great Recession, Democrats’ and Republicans’ mentions of the economy were similarly elevated. Likewise, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, mentions of terrorism increased among both parties.

Bottom Line

For the third month in a row, immigration is the problem Americans name more than any other as the most important facing the U.S. While immigration has not ranked as the top problem often in Gallup’s monthly trend, it stands alone as the most politically polarizing issue in the past 25 years of Gallup’s measurement.

The record surge of migrants at the southern U.S. border in December brought even more focus on the issue -- and while attempted crossings have eased slightly since then, they are expected to increase as spring continues. President Joe Biden’s approval rating for his handling of immigration has been persistently poor. With the presidential election about six months away and immigration top of mind, the issue remains a significant vulnerability for Biden as he seeks reelection.

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