The affordability of health care is high on the public’s list of the biggest problems in the country today, with 56% of adults describing this as “a very big problem” and an additional 30% rating it “a moderately big problem.”
Health care costs is the only issue of the 15 asked on the survey seen as a very big problem by a majority of Americans, though about half say that the federal budget deficit (49%), violent crime (48%), illegal immigration (48%) and gun violence (48%) are very big problems. A similar share (47%) name the coronavirus outbreak as a very big problem – though that is down significantly from last summer, when nearly six-in-ten (58%) said this.
All of the 15 problems in the survey are seen as at least moderately big problems by a majority of the public. However, Americans differ over the severity of these problems.
For example, nearly a quarter of adults (23%) say sexism is a very big problem – the lowest share of any issue asked about –while 36% view sexism as a moderately big problem. Just one-in-ten say that sexism is not a problem at all, while 30% say it is a small problem.
As the Biden administration makes the case for massive new investment in the nation’s infrastructure, the condition of roads, bridges and other infrastructure ranks relatively low on the list of major problems facing the country. About a third of adults (34%) say the condition of infrastructure is a very big problem, four-in-ten say it is a moderately big problem, and a quarter say it is either a small problem (23%) or not a problem (2%).
Though neither domestic nor international terrorism ranks among the public’s top problems, roughly a third of Americans (35%) say domestic terrorism is a very big problem in the country today, while a smaller share (26%) says the same about international terrorism.
Republicans and Democrats far apart on biggest problems facing the country
Gun violence, the affordability of health care, the coronavirus outbreak and racism are each seen as very big problems facing the country today by two-thirds or more Democrats and Democratic leaners.
By contrast, far fewer Republicans say these are major problems in the country. Four-in-ten say health care affordability is a very big problem, and only about two-in-ten rate the coronavirus and gun violence as very big problems.
The extent to which climate change and economic inequality are viewed as very big problems is similarly split along partisan lines. About six-in-ten Democrats say each of these are very big problems, while just 21% of Republicans say economic inequality is a very big problem and even fewer (14%) say this about climate change.
By contrast, illegal immigration and the federal budget deficit are the top problems identified by Republicans. About seven-in-ten say both of these are very big problems for the country. Only about three-in-ten Democrats identify these issues as very big problems.
Since last summer, Republicans and Democrats have diverged sharply in their views of whether the federal budget deficit represents a very big problem. Today, 71% of Republicans say the federal budget deficit is a very big problem – 22 percentage points higher than the share saying this in June 2020. By comparison, about three-in-ten Democrats (31%) now say the deficit is a very big problem – 14 points lower than the share saying this last summer.
As a result, Republicans are now 40 percentage points more likely than Democrats to say the deficit is a very big problem, a stark contrast to the lack of a substantial partisan gap in these views 10 months ago.
The shares of both Republicans and Democrats who say the coronavirus outbreak is a very big problem have decreased since June, though this decline has been steeper among Republicans (a 16 percentage point change) than among Democrats (8 points).
The share of the public viewing unemployment as a very big problem for the country has declined since last June from 50% to 41% (when national unemployment was substantially higher than it is today). The share of Democrats who say unemployment is a very big problem has fallen from 61% to 45% over this period, while the share of Republicans saying this is unchanged (36% then and now).
Since 2018, the share of Democrats who say the affordability of health care is a very big problem has decreased by 10 percentage points, while the share of Republicans who say this has decreased by 18 points. The shares who say economic inequality is a very big problem have also decreased among members of both parties in recent years.
A similar share of Democrats say that the condition of infrastructure is a very big problem (44%) as said this in 2016 (41%). Republicans have become somewhat less likely to describe the condition of infrastructure as a very big problem (23% in 2021 vs. 32% in 2016).