I find many Americans say there's a lot of people/cars/programs....is that correct or should "there's" be replaced with there are?? This question just keeps bugging me quite a bit
The argument/ assumption seems to be that the focus in
There … a lot of people/cars/programs …
is on a lot which is apparently singular.
Now recall that a lot is synonymous with lots:
There … lots of people/cars/programs …
With exactly the same meaning.
Of course, we'd use are in "There … lots of people/cars/programs …".
It's a quirk of grammar that a seemingly singular phrase is a synonym of a patently plural word, so that grammar books always insist that it should be:
There are a lot of people/cars/programs …
This needs to be followed in writing. In speech, people find it more logical (makes better sense) to say is a lot of things because of the article a.
Note: I'm not relating this question to the identical one on ELL or the ones right here on ELU because the answers there are either incorrect or incomplete.