2020: The Public’s Priorities and Expectations

A national survey conducted in December 2019 explores the problems Americans would like to see the federal government confront in 2020.

Health care, immigration, the environment, education, and the economy top a wide-ranging list of the American public’s policy priorities for the coming year, but there is little confidence that much progress will be made on these important problems. Republicans remain more positive about the state of the country and where it’s heading than Democrats.

In order to explore the public’s agenda for 2020, a recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research accepted from each respondent up to five volunteered issues they want to see the government address.

Health care has returned to its position as the single top issue for the public. Immigration was tied with health care for the top spot on the public’s agenda for 2019, but this year its importance has dropped substantially. Few Americans have much confidence in the government’s ability to make progress on either health care or immigration.

Overall, 31% mentioned foreign policy issues other than immigration, including national security, war, and terrorism. The survey was conducted before the escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran in January 2020.

There are substantial partisan differences on several high-profile problems, including the importance of education, trade, and drugs. In addition to differences on what problems should be addressed in the coming year, Republicans and Democrats have conflicting opinions about how things are going in the United States, the condition of the national economy, and where the country is headed.

The nationwide poll was conducted December 5-9, 2019, using the AmeriSpeak Panel®, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,053 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points.