77% of Americans Say Federally Funded Infrastructure Must Be Flood Ready

As Congress debates, poll shows support for resilient rebuilding—and concern about extreme weather

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77% of Americans Say Federally Funded Infrastructure Must Be Flood Ready
An elementary school in Lumberton, North Carolina, is inundated with floodwaters on Oct. 12, 2016, following Hurricane Matthew. A poll from The Pew Charitable Trusts shows that 77 percent of Americans want federally funded infrastructure, which includes many public schools, built to withstand floods.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Note: This analysis was updated May 23, 2019, with the correct percentage of Americans who support a national requirement that home sellers inform potential buyers if a property has flooded repeatedly.

More than three-quarters of Americans—77 percent—support a requirement that federally funded infrastructure in flood-prone areas be constructed to better withstand the impacts of flooding, according to a poll released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The overwhelming support comes from across the political spectrum and adds to the growing chorus of those calling on Congress to ensure the smart use of taxpayer dollars when investing in infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals, and other public assets.

Flooding is the most pervasive and costly natural disaster in the United States. The nation has experienced a $100 billion increase in flood losses each decade since the 1980s.

In March 13 testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, Pew urged Congress to ensure the long-term resiliency of federal investments in infrastructure. Research shows that smart spending on disaster mitigation—such as limiting the extent of impervious surfaces, moving water treatment plants outside of flood plains, or buying out flood-prone homes—saves taxpayers money over the long term.

Poll respondents from all regions of the country, including inland and coastal areas, favor the federal requirement. Further, 49 percent said they support slightly increased federal spending to build or repair infrastructure so that it can better withstand harsh weather such as floods and sea-level rise.

The poll also found that 74 percent of Americans support a national requirement that home sellers inform potential buyers if a property has flooded repeatedly, and a requirement that such properties be covered by flood insurance. The disclosure standard would help property purchasers make informed decisions about buying and living in flood-prone areas.

The support for more resilient infrastructure and transparency about flood history may be linked to the poll finding that 75 percent of Americans are “very or somewhat concerned” that the number of extreme weather events, such as storms, floods, excessive heat, and wildfires, will increase over the next 10 years—again with majorities of all political ideologies sharing this concern.

The March 13 subcommittee hearing was one of several that Congress held this week to address flood risk and insurance, and resilient infrastructure investments. This level of attention is promising: The country urgently needs national, forward-thinking policy to guide better decisions about building—and living—in the flood plain.

Laura Lightbody directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ flood-prepared communities initiative.