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U.S. Opinions on Homelessness: A BPC/Morning Consult Poll

The Brief

As part of its ongoing research on homelessness and its connection to housing supply trends, the J. Ronald Terwilliger Center for Housing Policy collaborated with Morning Consult to field a nationally representative survey measuring public views on homelessness, its causes, and proposed solutions.

Key Takeaways

Respondents have noticed an increase in the level of homelessness in their local community—especially in cities.

  • Nearly half (46%) of adults said there has been an increase in the level of homelessness in their community over the past year, with 57% of urban respondents noting an increase.
  • Over half of respondents (55%) said homelessness is a serious problem in their local community, while four in five (85%) viewed it as a serious problem nationally. Over half (58%) viewed it as a “very serious problem” nationally.

High housing costs and the lack of affordable homes are perceived as major causes of homelessness.

  • 74% of respondents said the lack of an adequate supply of affordable homes is a problem in the United States, while a similar share (75%) said inadequate housing supply contributes to high housing costs.
  • 77% of respondents believe an inadequate supply of affordable homes contributes to homelessness in America, and 66% identify high housing costs as a major cause of homelessness.
    • While a majority of Democrats (83%) and Republicans (69%) think that an inadequate supply of affordable homes contributes to homelessness in America, Democrats (53%) were more likely than Republicans (32%) to have said it “significantly contributes.”
  • Adults also identified drug and alcohol use (69%), poverty (67%), and mental illness (63%) as major causes of homelessness.

Most respondents believe homelessness should be a top priority for the federal government and want to see 2024 presidential candidates propose plans to significantly reduce homelessness.

  • Four in five (82%) adults said it should be a priority for the federal government to help ensure that everyone has access to a safe and affordable place to live, with 90% of Democrats, 75% of Republicans, and 78% of independents in support. Just over half of respondents (53%) believe it should be a top priority.
  • A plurality (31%) of adults sees the federal government as being most responsible for addressing homelessness—compared to 22% for state governments and 17% for local governments.
    • Pluralities of polled Democrats (36%), Republicans (30%), and independents (26%) agree that the federal government is most responsible for addressing homelessness.
  • More than four in five (82%) adults said it is an important priority for presidential candidates in the 2024 election to develop and advance a plan to significantly reduce homelessness.
    • This is an important priority for adults who voted for Joe Biden (88%) in the last presidential election as well as for those who voted for Donald Trump (76%).

A bipartisan majority would support congressional action to address homelessness by providing greater resources for support programs and enacting policies to expand the supply of affordable homes.

  • The survey found a high level of bipartisan support for policies to expand federal assistance for veterans experiencing homelessness, homeless individuals with mental illness, and substance abuse recovery programs aimed at homeless individuals.
  • Proposals to address the need for a greater supply of homes—such as expanding federal incentives for low-income housing development, incentivizing zoning reforms, and providing funding to preserve federally-subsidized housing—also saw high levels of bipartisan support.
  • Respondents would “strongly support” or “somewhat support” congressional action on the listed measures in the figure below:
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As the above table demonstrates, a majority of polled Republicans, Democrats, and independents supported policies outlined in the American Housing Act, a comprehensive and bipartisan legislative BPC, and BPC Action released as a response to the housing affordability crisis.

Survey Parameters

This poll was conducted by Morning Consult between May 24-27, 2023, among a national sample of 2,200 adults. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, gender, race, educational attainment, region, gender by age, and race by educational attainment. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

For questions, or to speak to Executive Director of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Center for Housing Policy, Dennis Shea, please contact BPC media relations manager Libby Miller.

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