With election on horizon, is infrastructure a public priority?

By |  October 6, 2020
The forecast for public works construction remains positive, especially when compared to other construction segments. Photo: iStock.com/Jens_Lambert_Photography

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade the last time they issued one in 2017. Photo: iStock.com/Jens_Lambert_Photography

The economy is always a top issue in presidential election years, and 2020 is no different. But where does the key industry issue of infrastructure fall in the pecking order of the American public’s priorities?

One can argue that infrastructure falls in with the general economy. Investing in infrastructure, after all, creates jobs and achieves economic efficiencies that would not otherwise be realized.

Of course, keeping U.S. infrastructure up to date is a core responsibility of the federal government. But with the American Society of Civil Engineers giving U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade the last time they issued one in 2017, it’s clear our federal lawmakers have been shirking a fundamental duty of theirs for years.

Do Americans recognize this, and do they value having a modern, efficient infrastructure? A Pew Research Center survey from August and a Gallup poll from late 2019 offer a sense of what infrastructure is currently up against as a presidential election issue.

Data from Pew Research Center and Gallup offers a sense of how the American public feels about infrastructure as an election issue.Numbers tell the story

The Pew Research Center zeroed in on 12 presidential election issues in a midsummer survey, but it did not zero in on infrastructure (see table, above left). The survey’s results make clear that voters still deeply care about the economy, but issues such as the coronavirus outbreak, violent crime and inequality became more topical this summer – possibly putting infrastructure in the back seat.

In fairness, the Pew Research Center conducted a similar survey of voting issues in the summer of 2016, and infrastructure was not an issue it asked about.

Go back to last December, though, and a measuring stick can be found on infrastructure as a presidential election issue (see table, above right). Seventy-four percent of the U.S. adults Gallup engaged in a poll indicated that the nation’s infrastructure was, at minimum, a “very important” issue for them in the 2020 presidential election.

Only the economy (84 percent), education (83 percent), health care (81 percent) and terrorism and national security (80 percent) were deemed very important by more people, providing an indicator that people do recognize U.S. infrastructure matters.

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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