Americans across racial backgrounds list the economy as the top issue in 2024—but disagree about most everything else—according to major new poll

Connie Queline

Americans across racial backgrounds list the economy as the top issue in 2024—but disagree about most everything else—according to major new poll

Americans of various racial backgrounds largely agree that the government should focus on the economy and foreign policy issues in 2024, but recent polling shows that views among racial groups diverge on some high-profile topics, including racism and immigration.

About 7 in 10 U.S. adults across racial backgrounds — including white, Black, Hispanic and Asian adults — name issues related to the economy in an open-ended question that asks people to share up to five topics they would like the government to prioritize in 2024, making it the most commonly mentioned issue for each group, as well as for U.S. adults overall at 76%.

Inflation specifically stood out as a major issue. About 3 in 10 adults who are white, AAPI or Hispanic list inflation as an important focus for 2024. About 2 in 10 Black adults also listed inflation as a top concern.

The data on U.S. adults overall — including Black, Hispanic and white adults — comes from an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted in December. The data on AAPI communities comes from an AAPI Data/AP-NORC poll that aims to improve the survey data available about Asian American communities in the U.S., which are often underrepresented in public opinion research.

On some issues beyond the economy, views diverge.

Immigration was named as a top priority for government action by 43% of Hispanic adults, 36% of white adults and 29% of Asians and Pacific Islanders, but only 19% of Black adults. Black and AAPI adults are less likely than white and Hispanic adults to say the government should work on the country’s involvement overseas. About one quarter of white and Hispanic adults mention this as an issue to prioritize, compared to 7% for both Black and AAPI adults.

“You’ve got so many people crossing the border,” said Rick Chan, an artificial intelligence engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“People should obey the laws when coming into the country,” said Chan, who is Chinese American.

White adults were more likely than adults from other racial and ethnic groups to name politics as an important issue for the upcoming year. Four in 10 white adults name politics as a necessary focal point for the government, compared to 2 in 10 Black or AAPI adults. About one-third of Hispanic adults consider politics an important focus. White adults are also more likely than non-white adults to be concerned about government spending, government corruption and taxes.

“We always have to have a budget in place to keep the government from shutting down. I don’t think the Republicans look at it that way,” said Jim O’Leary, a former railroad worker from Missouri. O’Leary, who is white, thinks the government should be most focused on the economy and democracy issues.

A Democrat, O’Leary said he wanted the government to take greater action on the federal budget but opposes hard-right economic policies. “They just don’t see the bigger picture,” O’Leary said, citing proposed budget cuts by conservative lawmakers in ongoing negotiations on Capitol Hill. He feels Trump is too polarizing a figure to return to office.

“I mean, he wants to be a dictator. If that guy gets back in, we’ll be in real trouble,” O’Leary said.

“I believe what we what we need to focus on most is election integrity. I think we’re down the drain if we don’t get some kind of election integrity back,” said Jerry Lassiter, a retired human resource specialist. Lassiter, who is white, said that corruption in government, the prosecution of rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and immigration were other top issues he felt the government needed to focus on in 2024.

Lassiter, a Republican, also expressed concern about issues including immigration, crime and “getting people back to work.”

Ivory Hunter Jr., a 59-year-old warehouse and transportation worker in Texas, said he “hears a lot of negative things” about potential cuts to federal government programs like Medicare and Social Security.

“And they’re not having solid plans that would suffice to solving the issues,” said Hunter, who is Black.

Hunter, a Democrat, said that while some Republicans had policy proposals he found appealing, he felt that the party was too supportive of former President Donald Trump, whom he sees as “tearing down our democracy” if he wins the White House. Hunter said he felt alienated from rhetoric and policies from many GOP politicians over voting rights, racism and immigration.

“I can’t stomach how they decide to do things, the statements that they make, or the actions that they take,” Hunter said.

Non-white adults are more likely than white adults to highlight racism or racial inequality among the topics for the government to address. About 2 in 10 Black adults highlight racial issues, compared to 13% of Hispanic adults and 12% of AAPI adults. Each of these groups is more likely than white adults, at 7%, to mention it. Non-white adults also mention employment issues at a higher rate than white adults do, including job availability and the minimum wage.

About 7 in 10 U.S. adults and AAPI adults are “slightly” or “not at all” confident that the federal government will be able to make progress on important issues in 2024. Nearly 8 in 10 white adults expressed a low confidence in the government’s ability to solve problems, a significantly higher rate of pessimism than that of other racial groups. They are more likely than Hispanic adults, at 63%, and Black adults, at 46%, to have little faith in the federal government to address their top concerns.

“The system is rigged. It’s already rigged. The people in Washington don’t lose their power. They’re going to do everything they can do to not lose their gravy train and their cushy jobs once they’re out of government,” Lassiter said.

“What’s optimistic about the future in this country? I don’t know. You just go with it every morning. You wake up and hope it didn’t blow up, that the world didn’t end overnight,” O’Leary said. “You just wake up in the morning and hope that there is still a world.”

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The poll of 1,074 U.S. adults was conducted Nov. 30–Dec. 4, 2023, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, designed to represent the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.

The poll of 1,115 U.S. adults who are Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders was conducted Nov. 6-15, 2023, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based Amplify AAPI Panel, designed to be representative of the Asian American and Pacific Islander population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

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