How Americans feel about 30 major issues
If you feel you can't get through a single news cycle without hearing about the polarization of the country, resist the urge to blow it off as fake news. According to data from the Pew Research Center, the 21st century has driven a massive partisan wedge between red and blue America. From homosexuality to corporate profits, to environmental regulations to poverty, there are widening gaps in the attitudes, values, and opinions between Democrats and Republicans on some of the biggest issues. While factors like age, gender, and ethnicity are occasionally better indicators, political affiliation is significantly more likely than before to shape modern world views—at least since 1994 when Pew first conducted the surveys.
Similar data reveals that priorities are changing for the population as a whole. A smaller percentage of Americans worry about the economy, for example, than they did just a few years back, while a greater percentage worry about addiction. Several years of positive economic growth and record-low unemployment in the wake of the Great Recession undoubtedly contributes to that change in opinion.
Using polling data from sources like Pew Research, Gallup, and the Kaiser Family Foundation, Stacker examined America's opinions on 25 of the biggest issues facing the country today. Stacker focuses on what drives those opinions, how those opinions have changed, and how those opinions play out in real-life policies and events. Since so many issues are split by political identity, it's important to note that any reference to "Democrats" and "Republicans" could also include respondents who are independent but "lean" toward one party or the other.
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The Space Program
According to Fortune, both Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin have serious plans to put private citizens in space as early as this year—and the space startup sector is booming. According to Pew, however, 72% of Americans think it's vital for America to remain a leader in space, and most think NASA—not private companies—should lead the way.
Like so many other key issues, feelings on environmental regulations are steered by party affiliation. A majority of Americans do share the opinion that the federal government is not doing enough to protect the environment, but there's a strong partisan divide on whether stricter regulations are worth the cost. Republicans think they are not, and that opinion is reflected in President Trump's deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) budget and programs during his presidency.
In the most recent Pew Research poll, 56% of Americans now believe that protecting the environment should be a priority for the president and Congress, and 44% believe that dealing with global climate change should be a priority. There is a significant gap, however, based on political affiliation—and that gap becomes a canyon when the question includes whether human activity is to blame. Only a quarter of Republicans believe that global warming is real and is also caused by humans, with older Republicans and ardent Trump supporters being skeptical.
When it comes to the most recent polling data on business regulations, the country is closely split, with 39% of Americans saying there is too much government regulation on business, a quarter of people saying there is too little, and a third saying that there is the right amount of regulation. Seemingly aware of this sentiment, President Trump campaigned on rolling back regulations, and he has kept his promise. As early as February 2018, Scientific American reported that Trump might have killed more regulations than any president in history.
The Affordable Care Act
Few of President Barack Obama's policies were more controversial than the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. Some of that controversy, however, is apparently starting to subside. The most recent KFF Health Tracking Poll shows that, while favorability ratings for the 2010 healthcare law dipped slightly, 46% of people surveyed still believe that it is good for the country.
The border wall
Eighty-two percent of Republicans support Trump's long-promised border wall, but an even greater percentage of Democrats—a full 93%—are against it. All in all, Pew data shows that 58% of respondents don't think the physical border with Mexico should be significantly expanded or bolstered. The president recently threatened to shut down the government over funding for the wall, but then walked back that statement.
Legal status for children brought to U.S. illegally
Another major issue in America's immigration debate is the fate of immigrants who were brought to America as children. According to the most recent Pew polling, America's collective opinion on the issue is clear. A full 73% of respondents think they should be granted legal status, including 54% of Republicans and 89% Democrats.
The global economy
Almost 2 in 3 Americans believe that America's involvement in the global economy is a positive thing because it opens up new markets and provides an opportunity for growth. Less than 1 in 3 worries that the dynamic stifles wages and exports jobs. While none of this news is particularly stunning, America's position as a player in the global economy represents one of the few cases where Democrats and Republicans are about evenly paired in their opinions.
[Pictured: President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, in 2019]
America's role in world affairs
Five years ago, only 35% of Americans said the U.S. should actively participate in issues facing other countries while 60% said the country is better off focusing on its own problems at home. Now, more Americans are invested in foreign policy, but priorities differ along party lines. While improving relationships with America’s allies is a top priority for 70% of Democrats (compared to 44% for Republicans), maintaining America’s military superiority over other nations is a top priority for 70% of Republicans (compared to 34% of Democrats).
[Pictured: Protesters in Hong Kong hold up signs that say "President Trump, please liberate Hong Kong."]
Privacy vs. security
America is divided by a slim margin on the trade-off between privacy and security in the digital age. Republicans, women, and older Americans are more likely to sacrifice privacy for the sake of security against threats like terrorism—but not by much.
[Pictured: US Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan]