Survey paints downbeat view of America in 2015

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Health care, terrorism and jobs topped Americans’ concerns in 2015, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The survey reveals that six years after passage of President Barack Obama’s signature Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (widely known as Obamacare), 63 percent of Americans still cite health care as one of their top concerns. Terrorism and unemployment trail close behind, with 62 percent and 60 percent naming them as important issues, respectively, according to the nonpartisan research organization based in Washington.

A year before the 2016 presidential election, more than half of the survey respondents remain wary of putting another Clinton or Bush in the White House. The research group said 54 percent would consider the election of either Republican Jeb Bush or Democrat Hillary Clinton to be bad for the country,

While the last economic slump ended in June 2009, 72 percent of Americans believe that the country is still in a recession, based on the survey of 2,695 people from Sept. 11 to Oct. 4. The proportion was unchanged from a year ago, despite steady employment gains, the organization said when it released the results Nov. 17.

Almost two-thirds said they believe that “one of the big problems in this country is that we don’t give everyone an equal chance in life.” Half said the country’s best days are over, up from 38 percent who held that view in 2012.

Democrats were almost twice as likely as Republicans to cite education costs or income inequality as critical issues, while Republicans were more likely to cite terrorism and immigration as top concerns.

But among Republicans, the importance of immigration varied between those who support Donald Trump’s presidential bid and backers of all the other GOP candidates. Immigration is a critical issue to 69 percent of Trump fans while just half of those supporting other candidates said the same.

The three public institutions in which Americans place their highest confidence are police, the criminal justice system and organized religion. Half say they have a great deal of confidence (9 percent) or some confidence (41 percent) in the federal government, while fewer than half say the same about news organizations and large corporations.

The survey shows a decided shift toward a more pessimistic outlook. Substantially more cited crime (48 percent this year from 33 percent), racial tensions (35 percent from 17 percent) and illegal immigration (36 percent from 28 percent) as pressing problems this year compared with 2012.

More than half, 53 percent of respondents, said that America’s culture and way of life has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s. The survey, conducted by telephone and online, had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.


When it comes to police killings of black men, the survey reveals a clear division along racial lines. Nearly two-thirds of whites interpreted these events as isolated incidents rather than part of a broader pattern, while 81 percent of black Americans saw a broader pattern taking shape.




On religion, 56 percent of Americans believe that the values of Islam are at odds with America’s and the American way of life, compared with 47 percent who held that view in 2011. Yet 7-in-10 say Muslims face a great deal of discrimination. By comparison, 63 percent say that about blacks.