Religion and Social Trends

A Quarter of Americans Say Iraq Nation’s Most Important Problem

But Americans still more likely to name economic issues as top problem facing country

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The latest update of Gallup's long-term trend on the public's perception of the most important problem facing the country shows a significant increase in the number of Americans mentioning the war in Iraq -- now at 26%, up from 11% last month. At the same time, the percentage of Americans saying the economy is the most important problem remains unchanged this month. When all mentions of economic issues are combined, the economy remains the top issue on the public's mind, at 43%. Thirteen percent of Americans perceive terrorism as the most important problem.

Mentions of Iraq Increase Sharply

Each month, Gallup asks Americans to respond to this question: "What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?" The open-ended responses are grouped into categories, and the results give us a good indication of what concerns and issues are most significant to the average American:

Most Important Problem
April 2004
April 5-8, 2004

The April 5-8 Gallup Poll shows a sharp increase in the number of people mentioning Iraq as the nation's top problem. The poll was conducted during increased violence in several areas of Iraq, resulting in media reports showing images of Iraqi and U.S. casualties. Last month, just 11% of Americans mentioned the situation in Iraq as the nation's top problem. This increased to 26% in April.

Until now, the percentage of Americans saying Iraq was the nation's top problem has averaged 15% over the past six months. The current results show the highest percentage of respondents mentioning Iraq since the major fighting ended there in April 2003. In the two months leading up to the start of the war last year, the percentage mentioning Iraq averaged 32% (31% in mid-January 2003, 35% in early February 2003, and 29% in early March 2003).

Most Important Problem
Selected Trend:
The Situation in Iraq or Fear of War

Last week, Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy claimed that the current situation in Iraq was "George Bush's Vietnam." Even though more Americans now mention Iraq as the nation's top problem than in previous months, the public's concern during the Vietnam War was substantially higher. The Vietnam War quickly moved to the top of the list of Americans' perceived most important problems as the number of troops there escalated in 1965, with an average of 26% of Americans mentioning Vietnam as the top problem that year. The percentage saying that Vietnam was the nation's top problem increased to an average of 47% in 1966, 46% in 1967, 40% in 1968, and 40% in 1969.

Most Important Problem
Selected Trend:
The Vietnam War

Partisanship Shapes Most Important Problems in the Country

The April 5-8 Gallup Poll shows important differences between Republicans and Democrats in their views of the nation's most important problem:

  • The situation in Iraq. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans and independents to perceive the situation in Iraq as the nation's most important problem. Thirty-five percent of Democrats mention Iraq or fear of war, compared with just 20% of both Republicans and independents.
  • The economy. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to mention the general economy as the top problem this month, with 27% of Democrats, 24% of independents, and 16% of Republicans mentioning the economy. Democrats (18%) are also slightly more likely than Republicans (13%) to mention unemployment or jobs.
  • Terrorism. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats or independents to perceive terrorism as the top problem facing the country. Twenty-two percent of Republicans mention terrorism (making it the most frequently mentioned problem among Republicans), compared with only 8% of both Democrats and independents.

 

Most Important Problem
by Party Identification
April 5-8, 2004

Total

Reps.

Inds.

Dems.

%

%

%

%

ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

Economy in general

22

16

24

27

Unemployment/Jobs

17

13

19

18

Fuel/Oil Prices

3

2

4

3

Taxes

2

2

2

2

Federal budget deficit/Federal debt

2

2

2

1

Lack of money

1

1

1

2

Foreign trade/Trade deficit

1

1

1

*

Gap between rich and poor

1

--

1

1

High cost of living/inflation

1

*

1

*

NON-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS

Situation in Iraq/Fear of war

26

20

20

35

Terrorism

13

22

8

8

Government/Politicians/Poor leadership

7

5

8

6

Ethics/Moral/Family decline

7

10

5

3

Healthcare

6

5

7

8

Education/Poor education/Access to education

5

5

7

4

National security

4

5

3

4

Foreign aid/Focus overseas

3

2

4

5

Poverty/Hunger/Homelessness

3

2

2

5

Immigration/Illegal aliens

2

4

3

--

Medicare/Social Security issues

2

2

3

2

International issues/problems

1

--

3

2

Environment/Pollution

1

--

2

1

Unifying the country

1

1

*

1

Crime/Violence

1

1

2

*

Drugs

1

1

1

1

Abuse of power

1

--

2

1

Judicial system/Courts/Laws

1

1

*

1

Lack of respect for each other

1

*

2

*

Homosexuality/Gay issues

1

1

1

*

The media

1

1

*

1

Reps. = Republicans

Inds. = Independents

Dems. = Democrats



General Mood of the Country

Despite increased concern about Iraq, the overall mood of the nation has changed little since last month. Forty-one percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time, while 57% are dissatisfied. This is virtually unchanged from last month's 39% satisfaction rating. Out of the five times Gallup has asked this "satisfaction" question this year, only once did a majority of Americans express satisfaction. A Jan. 2-5 poll found 55% of Americans satisfied, and 43% dissatisfied.

Historically, since Gallup first asked this question in 1979, the lowest points of public satisfaction were in July 1979 (12%) and June 1992 (14%). The highest points were measured in 1986 (69%), in 1991 just after the Persian Gulf War (66%), in January and February 1999 (70% and 71%, respectively), and in October 2001 (67%) and December 2001 (70%), shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.

General Mood of the Country

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are major partisan differences on this measure. Seventy percent of Republicans say they are satisfied with the way things are going, compared with 34% of independents and only 18% of Democrats.

The data show that 72% of registered voters who are dissatisfied with the state of the union say they will vote for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in November's presidential election, while 79% of registered voters who are satisfied plan to vote for President George W. Bush.

 

Projected Presidential Vote Based on Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction With the
Way Things are Going in the U.S
Based on registered voters
April 5-8, 2004

Satisfied with the
way things are
going in U.S.

Dissatisfied with
the way things are
going in U.S.

Will vote for John Kerry

17%

72

Will vote for George W. Bush

79%

20



Although the current 41% satisfaction level is relatively low, it is similar to the satisfaction levels measured in 1996 when President Bill Clinton successfully sought re-election. At that time, satisfaction ranged from 36% to 45% between mid-March and the end of October. It is also significantly higher than satisfaction throughout all of 1992 when George H.W. Bush lost in his attempt at a second term. In 1992, satisfaction ranged from a low of 14% to a high of 26%.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,014 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 5-8, 2004. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. 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.

In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?

 

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2004

2004 Apr 5-8

41

57

2

2004 Mar 8-11

39

60

1

2004 Feb 9-12

45

54

1

2004 Jan 12-15

46

53

1

2004 Jan 2-5

55

43

2

2003

2003 Dec 11-14

50

48

2

2003 Nov 3-5

44

54

2

2003 Oct 6-8

41

57

2

2003 Sep 8-10

40

58

2

2003 Aug 4-6

46

52

2

2003 Jul 7-9

50

48

2

2003 Jun 12-15

47

51

2

2003 May 5-7

54

45

1

2003 Apr 7-9

55

41

4

2003 Mar 22-23

60

38

2

2003 Mar 3-5

36

61

3

2003 Feb 17-19

39

58

3

2003 Feb 3-6

40

58

2

2003 Jan 13-16

42

56

2

2002

2002 Dec 5-8

46

51

3

2002 Nov 11-14

48

48

4

2002 Oct 31-Nov 3

48

47

5

2002 Oct 3-6

47

49

4

2002 Sep 5-8

47

51

2

2002 Aug 5-8

47

50

3

2002 Jul 26-28

48

49

3

2002 Jul 22-24

49

47

4

2002 Jul 9-11

49

48

3

2002 Jun 3-6

52

44

4

2002 May 6-9

56

40

4

2002 Apr 8-11

61

37

2

2002 Mar 4-7

61

37

2

2002 Feb 4-6

61

37

2

2002 Jan 7-9

65

32

3

2001

2001 Dec 6-9

70

28

2

2001 Nov 8-11

65

33

2

2001 Oct 11-14

67

29

4

2001 Sep 14-15

61

36

3

2001 Sep 7-10

43

55

2

2001 Aug 16-19

48

49

3

2001 Jul 19-22

51

46

3

2001 Jun 11-17

51

46

3

2001 May 10-14

46

50

4

2001 Apr 6-8

50

47

3

2001 Mar 5-7

53

44

3

2001 Feb 1-4

51

45

4

2001 Jan 10-14

56

41

3

2000

2000 Dec 2-4

51

46

3

2000 Nov 13-15

58

41

1

2000 Oct 6-9

62

36

2

2000 Aug 29-Sep 5

59

38

3

2000 Aug 18-19

63

33

4

2000 Jul 14-16

61

35

4

2000 Jun 22-25

56

39

5

2000 May 18-21

55

42

3

2000 Apr 3-9

59

37

4

2000 Feb 25-27

65

32

3

2000 Jan 7-10

69

28

3

1999

1999 Sep 23-26

52

45

3

1999 Aug 24-26

62

35

3

1999 Jun 11-13

55

42

3

1999 May 23-24

51

46

3

1999 Apr 26-27

51

45

4

1999 Apr 13-14

58

39

3

1999 Feb 12-13

71

26

3

1999 Jan 15-17

70

28

2

1998

1998 Dec 28-29

50

48

2

1998 Oct 29-Nov 1

60

34

6

1998 Aug 21-23

63

34

3

1998 Aug 10-12

60

36

4

1998 May 8-10

59

36

5

1998 Apr 17-19

58

38

4

1998 Feb 20-22

64

32

4

1998 Feb 13-15

59

37

4

1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

63

35

2

1997

1997 Dec 18-21

50

46

4

1997 Aug 22-25

50

48

2

1997 May 6-7

46

51

3

1997 Jan 10-13

50

47

3

1996

1996 Dec 9-11

43

55

2

1996 Nov 21-24

47

47

6

1996 Oct 26-29

39

56

5

1996 Aug 30-Sep 1

45

50

5

1996 Aug 16-18

38

57

5

1996 May 9-12

37

60

3

1996 Mar 15-17

36

61

3

1996 Mar 8-10

41

56

3

1996 Jan 5-7

24

72

4

1995

1995 Aug 11-14

33

64

3

1995 Jul 7-9

32

65

3

1995 Mar 27-29

30

66

4

1994

1994 Nov 28-29

29

67

4

1994 Nov 2-6

30

66

4

1994 Oct 22-25

31

66

3

1994 Jul 15-17

33

65

2

1994 May 20-22

33

64

3

1994 Apr 22-24

32

65

3

1994 Mar 25-27

35

62

3

1994 Feb 26-28

36

61

3

1994 Jan 15-17

35

62

3

1993

1993 Dec 4-6

34

63

3

1993 Nov 2-4

27

70

3

1993 May 21-23

24

73

3

1993 Feb 12-14

25

71

4

1993 Jan 8-11

29

68

3

1992

1992 Nov 11-12

26

68

6

1992 Aug 28-Sep 2 ‡

22

73

5

1992 Jul 31-Aug 2

17

80

3

1992 Jun 12-14

14

84

2

1992 May 7-10

20

77

3

1992 Apr 20-22 ^

19

80

1

1992 Mar 20-22

19

80

1

1992 Feb 28-Mar 1

21

78

1

1992 Jan 31-Feb 2 ^

24

75

1

1992 Jan 3-6 ^

24

74

2

1991

1991 Dec 5-8

37

60

3

1991 Oct 31-Nov 2

35

62

3

1991 Oct 10-13

39

57

4

1991 Aug 23-25

49

45

6

1991 Jul 11-14

43

50

7

1991 May 23-26

49

49

2

1991 Mar 21-24

52

43

5

1991 Feb 28-Mar 3

66

31

3

1991 Feb 14-17

54

40

6

1991 Jan 17-21

62

33

5

1991 Jan 3-6

32

61

7

1990

1990 Dec 13-16

33

64

3

1990 Nov 1-4

32

64

4

1990 Oct 25-28

31

66

3

1990 Oct 11-14

29

67

4

1990 Sep 27-30

37

58

5

1990 Aug 30-Sep 2

51

44

5

1990 Aug 9-12

43

51

6

1990 Jul 19-22

45

51

4

1990 Feb 8-11

55

39

6

1989

1989 May 4-7

44

50

6

1989 Feb

45

50

5

1988

1988 Sep 25-Oct 1

56

40

4

1988 May 13-15

41

54

5

1987

1987 Aug 24-Sep 2

45

49

6

1986

1986 Dec 4-5 †

47

49

4

1986 Sep 3-17

58

38

4

1986 Jun 9-16

69

26

5

1986 Mar 7-10

66

30

4

1985

1985 Nov 11-18

51

46

3

1984

1984 Dec

52

40

8

1984 Sep 28-Oct 1

48

45

7

1984 Feb 10-13

50

46

4

1983

1983 Aug 5-8

35

59

6

1982

1982 Nov 5-8

24

72

4

1982 Sep 17-20

24

72

4

1982 Apr 2-5

25

71

4

1981

1981 Dec 11-14

27

67

6

1981 Jun 5-8

33

61

6

1981 Jan 9-12

17

78

5

1979

1979 Nov 2-5

19

77

4

1979 Jul 13-16

12

84

4

1979 Feb 2-5

26

69

5

^ registered voters
† Gallup/Newsweek
‡ Gallup/CNN/Knight-Ridder



What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? [Open-ended]

 

Apr
5-8,
2004

Mar
8-11, 2004

Feb
9-12,
2004

%

%

%

ECONOMIC PROBLEMS (NET)

43

47

46

1

Economy in general

22

21

21

2

Unemployment/Jobs

17

19

20

3

Fuel/Oil prices

3

2

*

4

Taxes

2

1

3

5

Federal budget deficit/Federal debt

2

5

5

6

Lack of money

1

1

1

7

Foreign trade/Trade deficit

1

1

1

8

Gap between rich and poor

1

*

1

9

High cost of living/Inflation

1

*

*

10

Corporate corruption

*

*

*

11

Recession

*

--

*

Wage issues

--

1

--

NON-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS (NET)

74

62

69

1

Fear of war/Feelings of fear in this country/War in Iraq

26

11

14

2

Terrorism

13

10

11

3

Dissatisfaction with government/Congress/politicians/candidates; Poor leadership; corruption

7

6

8

4

Ethics/Moral/Religious/Family decline; dishonesty; lack of integrity

7

5

6

5

Poor healthcare/hospitals; high cost of healthcare

6

6

11

6

Education/Poor education/Access to education

5

5

6

7

National security

4

7

4

8

Foreign aid/Focus overseas

3

3

3

9

Poverty/Hunger/Homelessness

3

3

5

10

Medicare/Social Security issues

2

2

3

11

Immigration/Illegal aliens

2

1

2

12

International issues/problems

1

1

2

13

Environment/Pollution

1

2

1

14

Unifying the country

1

1

1

15

Crime/Violence

1

2

2

16

Drugs

1

1

2

17

Abuse of power

1

--

--

18

Judicial system/Courts/Laws

1

1

2

19

Lack of respect for each other

1

1

--

20

Homosexuality/Gay issues

1

2

--

21

The media

1

*

1

22

Care for the elderly

*

1

1

23

Welfare

*

*

1

24

Election year/Presidential choices/Election reform

*

*

*

25

Children's behavior/way they are raised

*

2

*

26

Abortion

*

1

*

27

Child abuse

*

*

*

28

Lack of energy sources; the energy crisis

*

*

--

29

Guns/Gun control

*

*

*

Race relations/Racism

--

*

*

Overpopulation

--

*

*

Cancer/Diseases

--

--

--

Space program/NASA

--

--

--

Lack of military defense

--

--

--

Other non-economic

2

3

2

No opinion

3

3

3

Total

143%

131%

143%



Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/11368/Quarter-Americans-Say-Iraq-Nations-Most-Important-Problem.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030