How Americans View Infrastructure in Their Community

by Ari Pinkus April 30, 2024

The horrific collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore this spring renewed the nation’s focus on its infrastructure, more than two years after the infrastructure and jobs act was made law and new projects get underway.

Last year, the American Communities Project and Ipsos asked 5,000 Americans their thoughts on the infrastructure in their own communities as part of a survey on the fragmentation of American society. Overall, 60% of Americans rated their community infrastructure as excellent or good. The survey outlined infrastructure broadly, including roads, bridges, water, sewer, and electrical systems. Drilling down by community type, the net excellent/good score ranged nearly 40 points. Ratings were highest in a variety of the nation’s affluent and middle-income communities and lowest in poorer communities of color.

Between 70% and 76% of residents in the affluent, multicultural Urban Suburbs and the rural, Western, Mormon LDS Enclaves rated their neighborhood infrastructure as excellent or good. In Rural Middle America, along the country’s upper tier, and Military Posts, the figures were closer to the average, at 67% and 66% respectively.

Excellent and good percentages were lowest in the Native American Lands at 37% and the African American South at 44%. Not far behind were low-income Working Class Country communities, concentrated in Appalachia, at 48%.

New Infrastructure Projects

Underinvestment has long been a challenge in these places, particularly in Native American communities. As the White House website noted, “For too long, the Federal government has underinvested in the estimated 145,000 miles of roads passing through Tribal lands. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law seeks to rectify these historical wrongs and rebuild our roads and bridges.”

Since the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was enacted in November 2021, 51,000-plus projects have been announced in all 50 states. More than $13.7 billion is going to tribal communities, including for roads, bridges, public transit, water, and sanitation.

Major projects and sums across communities include:

  • $25 million to build a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Rio Salado River, linking South Phoenix (Big City) to transportation, housing, education, and job opportunities
  • More than $75 million for new pipes and facilities for the Lewis & Clark Rural Water System serving South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. (Rural Middle America, Aging Farmlands, and Native American Lands are the dominant county types here.)
  • $146 million to build drinking water infrastructure for rural north-central Montana. (County types covered include Native American Lands and Graying America.)
  • $150 million to replace the I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana (Military Post)
  • $292 million to Amtrak for Hudson Yards Concrete Casing to support the new passenger rail tunnel under the Hudson River (Big City)
  • More than $1.6 billion in Cincinnati, Ohio (Urban Suburb) and Covington, Kentucky (Middle Suburb) to upgrade the Brent Spence Bridge and construct a new bridge to improve traffic along I-71/I-75, a vital freight route from Canada to Florida

In Poor Condition

Of all the concerns about community infrastructure — underfunding, too much strain, poor condition, not enough access or inconvenience, and environmental hazards — poor condition was the top concern cited among the 13 community types where this question was asked. Nationally, 34% of Americans said infrastructure was poorly maintained or in poor condition. Communities in the South and Midwest stood out for highlighting this problem: Evangelical Hubs at 41%, the African American South at 42%, Middle Suburbs at 44%, and Working Class Country at 44%. It’s worth noting that Middle Suburbs in the Rust Belt have been stagnating since the 2000s with unions and industry moving out.


Underfunding was the next highest problem: 26% of Americans reported this as a significant concern. At the community level, the African American South, Evangelical Hubs, and Working Class Country popped noticeably higher at 32% and 34%, echoing the ratings above. Underfunding was much less of an issue in the middle-income LDS Enclaves at 18% and the upper-middle-income Exurbs at 20%. Both areas are growing with young families, according to the 2020 Census.

Too Much Strain

Eighteen percent of Americans said too much demand or strain (heavy traffic, not enough trains/buses, too many users, etc.) was a significant concern. At 26%, the LDS Enclaves stood out for having too much strain on community infrastructure. Perhaps not surprising, the dense Big Cities came in six points above the national average. Graying America was also above the national average, as people have relocated to these more rural areas in recent years. Last fall, our writer laid out this challenge unfolding at the Georgia-North Carolina border.

Not Enough Access

Not having enough access or being inconveniently located to infrastructure rated very low as a concern, never hitting 10% among Americans. The issue reached 9% in the stratified Big Cities. A mix of communities known for a range of incomes, education levels, races, and geographies — the African American South, Urban Suburbs, Exurbs, Evangelical Hubs, and Military Posts — posted an 8% figure.

Environmental Hazards

Environmental hazards or danger to public health was also not considered a significant problem to Americans, coming in at just 6% nationally. This concern was highest in the dense and stratified Big Cities at 10%. It stood at 8% in other more diverse suburbs and lower-income rural communities: the Urban Suburbs, African American South, and Evangelical Hubs. Most community types sat at 5% or below.

None of the Above

Forty percent of Americans reported none of these issues was a concern. In the LDS Enclaves, nearly half of residents, 49%, said none of these issues and in Rural Middle America, 47% said so.

Vol. 3 2020-2021

Deaths of Despair Across America

The American Communities Project is undertaking a 30-month study of Deaths of Despair in its 15 community types.

Learn More