PRINCETON, NJ -- Seventeen percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time, the low point in a year when satisfaction levels generally have been in the 20% range.
The current 17% satisfaction rating is low from a historical perspective, but still exceeds the all-time low, 7% in an October 2008 poll. Gallup first asked this trend question in 1979.
More generally, satisfaction averaged 22% this year, lower than all but three yearly averages -- 2008 (15%), 1979 (19%), and 1992 (21%). The historical average across all years is 40%, and the yearly averages have been below that mark since 2006.
The United States' continuing economic struggles are likely the reason behind the low satisfaction levels. Gallup's "most important problem" question confirms this, as 30% of Americans say the economy in general is the top problem and 24% say unemployment or jobs specifically, easily the top two issues mentioned. Thirteen percent mention dissatisfaction with the government, 10% the federal budget deficit, and 8% healthcare.
Either the economy or unemployment has been the top problem each month since February 2008. Those two issues have ranked first and second each month this year.
Americans end the year in a rather sour mood, with only 17% satisfied with the way things are going in the United States. Satisfaction has been below the historical average in each of the last five years, and has recovered only modestly from the record lows of 2008. Satisfaction levels will probably not show sustained improvement until the economy turns around, as the economy typically weighs heavily in Americans' assessments of whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with conditions in the United States.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 10-12, 2010, with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., 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 (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only 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, education, region, 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 continental 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 http://www.gallup.com/.