Recent YouGov surveys have asked Americans to rate the seriousness of problems such as homelessness and opioid addiction, both within their local communities and throughout the U.S. The results of these polls show a tendency for more Americans to say that certain problems are serious in the U.S. as a whole than the share who say the problem is serious in their own communities. To test whether this phenomenon generalized to a larger set of potential problems, we conducted an experiment. Respondents were randomly assigned to one of two groups: Half were asked to rate the seriousness of 30 problems in their local community, while the other half were asked to rate the same set of problems in the U.S. as a whole.
Overall, we find that this tendency extends to a wide range of issues. On 28 of the 30 problems asked about, Americans are at least 5 percentage points more likely to say the issue is a "very serious problem" in the U.S. than they are to say it is a very serious problem in their local community. The only two issues without a significant difference between perceptions as national and local problems are COVID-19 and a lack of public transportation. The issues that Americans are far more likely to say are very serious problems nationally than locally:
- Violent crime (+33 percentage-point gap)
- Corruption (+32)
- Debt (+24)
- Domestic violence (+23)
- Terrorism (+22)
- Poverty (+21)
- Gun violence (+21)
- A lack of access to quality education (+21)
- Police brutality (+20)
Both locally (57%) and nationally (64%), inflation is the issue that Americans are most likely to say is a very serious problem. The other issues polled that the most Americans view as very serious local problems are homelessness, drug abuse, gun violence, and poverty. Nationally, after inflation, the issues most likely to be seen as very serious are corruption, violent crime, homelessness, and gun violence.
See the full data on perceptions of problems nationally and locally:
— Carl Bialik contributed to this article
This poll was conducted on August 5 - 8, 2022 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this poll.
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