Religion and Social Trends

Four in 10 Americans Satisfied With State of Nation

Economy, international issues continue to rate as most important problems

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new Gallup Poll finds 4 in 10 Americans satisfied with the way things are going in the United States, about where it has been since March. Economic and international concerns continue to rank highest among Americans' perceptions of the most important problem facing the country. By a slight 46% to 43% margin, Americans say the Republican, rather than the Democratic, Party would better handle the problem they think is most important. But Americans' perceptions of which party would better handle the most important problem vary greatly by what they believe the most important problem is.

National Satisfaction

Forty-one percent of Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time, while 56% are dissatisfied, according to the Sept. 13-15 poll. Satisfaction has been below the 50% mark since mid-January, and has averaged 40% since March.

Some commentators have suggested this sub-50% satisfaction level is an ominous sign for President George W. Bush's re-election prospects. Historical Gallup data indicate otherwise. In fact, only 39% of Americans were satisfied with the course of the nation in late October 1996, days before Bill Clinton won an easy re-election victory. And in late September and early October 1984, just 48% were satisfied shortly before Ronald Reagan's landslide re-election.

That is not to say low satisfaction levels cannot be a problem for an incumbent, but when incumbents have been defeated, national satisfaction levels have been considerably lower than they are today. In late August/early September 1992, two months before the elder George Bush was defeated for re-election, only 22% of Americans were satisfied with the way things were going in the United States. Gallup did not ask about satisfaction in 1980, the year Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid, but Gallup readings in November 1979 and January 1981 (prior to Reagan's taking office) showed satisfaction levels of 19% and 17%, respectively.

Most Important Problem

The economy and international concerns still figure prominently when Americans are asked to name the most important problem facing the country. Thirty-seven percent of Americans mention some aspect of the economy when asked this open-ended question, including 21% who mention the economy in general terms and 12% who specifically say jobs or unemployment. Nearly half of Americans say concerns about war or the war in Iraq specifically (23%), terrorism (19%), or national security (7%) are the country's most important problem.

An increasing percentage of Americans, 14%, say healthcare is the most important problem facing the country. That compares with 11% in August and 8% in July. Healthcare appears to be emerging as a fourth key issue -- along with the economy, Iraq, and terrorism -- in this year's campaign.

In this month's poll, Americans were asked which party would better handle the problem they think is most important. Among those who mentioned a problem (all but a few respondents), 46% say the Republican Party is better at handling the most important problem and 43% say the Democratic Party. Eleven percent mention another party, say there is no difference between the parties, or have no opinion on the matter.

Americans' perceptions of the party better able to handle the most important problem tend to vary according to what issue people deem most important. For example, those who identify the economy, healthcare, or Iraq as most important are more likely to say the Democratic Party can better handle the problem. On the other hand, by a better than 3-to-1 margin, Americans who say terrorism is the most important problem say the Republican Party is better able to handle it.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,022 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 13-15, 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.

7. 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 Sep 13-15

41

56

3

2004 Aug 9-11

44

55

1

2004 Jul 8-11

41

57

2

2004 Jun 3-6

39

59

2

2004 May 7-9

37

62

1

2004 May 2-4

36

62

2

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

(continued)

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

(continued)



2000

Satisfied
%

Dissatisfied
%

No opinion
%

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

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

 

 

Sep
13-15,
2004

Aug
9-11,
2004

Jul
8-11,
2004

 

 

%

%

%

 

ECONOMIC PROBLEMS (NET)

37

41

33

1

Economy in general

21

21

16

2

Unemployment/Jobs

12

15

10

3

Federal budget deficit/Federal debt

3

2

1

4

Taxes

1

2

1

5

Fuel/Oil Prices

1

1

2

6

Foreign trade/Trade deficit

1

*

1

7

Lack of money

1

1

2

8

High cost of living/Inflation

1

1

1

9

Wage issues

*

1

*

10

Gap between rich and poor

*

1

1

11

Corporate corruption

*

*

*

12

Recession

*

--

--

 

 

 

 

 

 

NON-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS (NET)

82

76

77

1

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

23

21

26

2

Terrorism

19

18

15

3

Poor healthcare/hospitals; high cost of healthcare

14

11

8

4

National security

7

5

4

5

Ethics/moral/religious/family decline; Dishonesty; Lack of integrity

6

5

6

6

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

6

6

8

7

Education/Poor education/Access to education

5

6

5

8

International issues/problems

3

2

2

9

Medicare/Social Security issues

2

2

4

10

Poverty/Hunger/Homelessness

2

2

4

11

Foreign aid/Focus overseas

2

3

4

12

Homosexuality/Gay issues

2

1

1

13

Judicial system/Courts/Laws

2

1

2

14

Immigration/Illegal aliens

2

2

2

15

Drugs

2

1

1

16

Environment/Pollution

2

1

1

17

Crime/Violence

1

2

2

18

Abortion

1

1

*

19

Care for the elderly

1

1

*

20

Children's behavior/way they are raised

1

1

1

21

Unifying the country

1

1

1

22

Lack of respect for each other

1

1

1

23

Welfare

1

1

1

24

Lack of energy sources; the energy crisis

1

*

*

25

Election year/Presidential choices/Election reform

1

1

*

26

The media

*

*

1

27

Abuse of power

*

--

*

28

Guns/Gun control

*

--

*

29

Race relations/Racism

*

*

*

30

Child abuse

*

--

--

31

Overpopulation

*

*

*

 

Cancer/Diseases

--

*

--

 

Space program/NASA

--

--

--

 

Lack of military defense

--

--

--

 

Other non-economic

4

3

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

No opinion

2

2

4

 

Total

155%

146%

141%

 

 

 

 

 

* Less than 0.5%

 

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/13129/Four-Americans-Satisfied-State-Nation.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030