A new YouGov survey asked Americans about passport ownership, their experience renewing or applying for passports during periods of what the federal government describes as “unprecedented demand,” and the value they believe a U.S. passport has for its holders. The survey found that the groups most likely to hold a current U.S. passport include Hispanic Americans, adults under 30, and people who have attained college degrees. It also found that Americans view a U.S. passport as more beneficial than passports issued by many other countries.
But first, who are the country’s passport holders? Among Americans, 43% have a passport, while 52% do not. (The rest are unsure or prefer not to say.) Adults under 30 are more likely than older Americans to have a current U.S. passport (53%); fewer do among 30-to 44-year-olds (46%), 45- to 64-year-olds (33%), and people 65 and older (46%).
The more education a person has completed, the more likely they are to have a passport. Among people whose highest level of education is a high school degree or less, 24% have a current U.S. passport. The share is 39% among people who have completed some college, 64% among people whose highest level of education is a college degree, and 71% among people who have a postgraduate degree.
There also are noticeable differences in U.S. passport ownership between people of different races. Hispanic Americans (55%) are more likely than white Americans (42%) or Black Americans (34%) to hold a current U.S. passport.
Hispanic Americans are also more likely than Black and white Americans to have ever held a passport from a country other than the U.S.. While 20% of Hispanic Americans have, fewer Black Americans (13%) and white Americans (4%) have.
The share of Americans who have applied for a U.S. passport or passport renewal in the past two years is 16%, including 21% of adults under 45.
Among the Americans who have applied for a U.S. passport or renewal in the past two years, one-third (33%) say that it took longer to process their application than they were originally told to expect. A March 2023 update from the U.S. State Department said that there has been an “unprecedented demand” for passport processing in 2023 as many Americans are returning to international travel. This has led to increases in processing time for passport renewals: Where it used to take six to nine weeks, the State Department now says it will take 10 to 13 weeks.
Most (56%) Americans think this is an unreasonable amount of time for processing U.S. passports, though 21% say it is reasonable. Republicans (63%) are more likely than Democrats (56%) and Independents (50%) to find this timeline unreasonable. People who are 65 or older (68%) are more likely than younger adults (56%) to find the timeline unreasonable.
Luckily, very few (4%) Americans say they have ever had to cancel travel plans because of passport delays. And only 7% have ever lost their passport, though 11% of 18- to 44-year-olds who have ever had a passport have done so.
The survey also asked Americans about the relative power of U.S. passports compared to passports issued from other countries.
Canadian passports are perceived positively: 20% of Americans say it would be more beneficial to travel with a Canadian passport than a U.S. one and 36% say it would be equally beneficial. German passports also are well-regarded by many Americans: 18% think these are more beneficial than U.S. passports and 31% think the two are equal. The UK is the third country asked about whose passports are more likely to be seen by Americans as more beneficial than a U.S. passport than less beneficial.
On the other end of the spectrum, passports from Iraq (52%), North Korea (52%), and Afghanistan (49%) are seen as less beneficial than U.S. passports by roughly half of Americans — and more beneficial by 5% or less.
— Linley Sanders, Taylor Orth, and Carl Bialik contributed to this article
- Has COVID-19 affected Brits’ and Americans’ love of travel?
- The best places to visit in the United States, according to Americans who have visited them
- Americans tend to support vaccine passports for international travel
Methodology: The YouGov poll was conducted online on August 2 - 4, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample also was weighted by baseline party identification, which is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 4%.
Image: Unsplash (Spencer Davis)