PRINCETON, N.J. -- Americans of all political persuasions say the economy and jobs are the most important problems facing the country today. These concerns easily outpace all others, thus providing politicians seeking office in this fall's midterm elections with clear marching orders from their constituents: Fix the economy.
Economic concerns have dominated Americans' views of the nation's top problems since early 2008. In the Aug. 5-8 Gallup poll, 65% of Americans mention some aspect of the economy as the top problem facing the country, down only slightly from the beginning of this year.
Other problems 5% or more of Americans mention include dissatisfaction with government and Congress, healthcare, immigration issues, and the decline in ethics/morals/family values.
"There are many political and ideological differences in the way Republicans, independents, and Democrats view the world in today's highly partisan political environment, but there is general agreement across these three groups that the economy and jobs are the nation's top problems."
Immigration -- in the news recently as a result of Arizona's controversial new immigration law -- is tied for fourth on the list of problems. Other specific issues receiving significant news coverage recently do not appear to be highly top of mind with Americans. These include gay marriage, the war in Afghanistan, and global warming -- none of which more than 2% of Americans specifically mention as the nation's top problem.
Americans are much less likely to mention healthcare as the nation's top problem than they were likely to in February, in the middle of debate over President Obama's new healthcare reform law. Additionally, 3% of Americans mention natural disaster recovery today compared with 18% in June, when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill dominated the news.
The current political environment is substantially different than prior to the last midterm election four years ago. The most frequently mentioned concern in August 2006 was Iraq (which 26% of Americans then considered the nation's most important problem), followed by 15% who named the price of gas and fuel, and 10% who mentioned terrorism. Four years ago, 8% of Americans named the economy as the top problem, while 4% mentioned jobs.
Economy and Jobs Dominate Across Political Groups
There are many political and ideological differences in the way Republicans, independents, and Democrats view the world in today's highly partisan political environment, but there is general agreement across these three groups that the economy and jobs are the nation's top problems.
Republican politicians have been highly critical of the role of the federal government in American society, and 16% of rank-and-file Republicans list dissatisfaction with government as their top concern, putting it third on their list behind the economy and jobs. These concerns are also on independents' and Democrats' lists of top five concerns. Immigration issues are on Republicans' and independents' top five list, but not on Democrats'. On the other hand, Democrats' list of top concerns includes healthcare and fear of war, neither of which appear among the top five of the other two partisan groups.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 5-8, 2010, with a random sample of 1,013 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.