U.S. Satisfaction Down to 14%, Just Shy of All-Time Low

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Economy remains top problem in Americans’ eyes

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll finds just 14% of Americans saying they are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States, two percentage points higher than the 1979 low and tied with a June 1992 rating for the second-lowest reading.

The latest results are based on a May 8-11 survey, and mark the third consecutive month that less than 20% of Americans have been satisfied with the direction of the nation. Since 1979, when Gallup first asked this question, sub-20% satisfaction levels have been rare, occurring twice in 1979, once in 1981, and four times in 1992.

The current poll finds 85% of Americans saying they are dissatisfied with the course of the nation, surpassing the previous high dissatisfaction readings from July 1979 and June 1992 by one point.

The high point in satisfaction was 71% in February 1999.

Only 6% of Democrats say they are currently satisfied with the nation's course. Twelve percent of independents and 26% of Republicans are also satisfied. Generally speaking, supporters of the president's party tend to express higher levels of satisfaction.

Economy Remains Top Problem

In addition to monthly updates on national satisfaction, each month Gallup also asks Americans to name "the most important problem facing this country" in their own words. For the fourth consecutive month, the economy in general terms tops the list, mentioned by 35% of Americans. (See the recent results on this question elsewhere in the article.)

There were two notable movements in this month's results. The percentage of Americans naming fuel or oil prices has nearly doubled, from 9% in April to 17% in the latest poll. That does not include an additional 3% who mention the energy crisis, which effectively makes gas prices the No. 2 issue behind the economy.

Meanwhile, mentions of the Iraq war tumbled, from 23% in April to 15% this month. The percentage mentioning the war as the nation's most important problem has not been in this range since September 2005, when 16% mentioned it in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and has not been lower since March 2004, when 11% did. Beginning in April 2004, Iraq ranked as the top problem (or tied for the top) each month through January 2008. The economy surpassed it in February.

Other issues that register notable public concern include healthcare (7%), unemployment (5%), dissatisfaction with government and politicians (5%), immigration (4%), and inflation (4%).

From a broad perspective, 61% of Americans mention something about the economy in any of their responses to this question, matching last month's "net economy" figure and roughly twice the percentage who did so as recently as December.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,017 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 8-11, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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