Public Most Satisfied With Government's Handling of Parks, Open Space

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Decline in satisfaction with handling of military, national defense

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Of all the major functions the federal government performs, the American public is most satisfied with the work the government is doing in the area of national parks and open space. The public is least satisfied with the government's handling of the nation's finances, poverty, and healthcare. There are only 5 of 17 areas for which more Americans are satisfied than dissatisfied. Republicans are more likely to express satisfaction than Democrats in all areas.

Gallup's annual Governance poll, conducted Sept. 12-15, asked the public to rate its satisfaction with the various functions the federal government performs -- loosely based on the various cabinet agencies. Seventy-one percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the government's work in the area of national parks and open space, placing it far ahead of the second ranked area on the list -- the nation's military and national defense.

In all, there are only five areas in which at least half the public is satisfied -- national parks, the nation's military and defense, agriculture and farming, transportation, and homeland security.

Americans are least satisfied with the government's handling of the nation's finances, poverty, healthcare, and energy policy, all with only about one in four Americans satisfied. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, one in three are satisfied with the government's handling of natural disasters.

Next, we are going to name some major areas the federal government handles. For each one, please say whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the work the government is doing

Area

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

%

%

National parks and open space

71

27

The nation's military and national defense

59

40

Agriculture and farming

56

38

Transportation

56

42

Homeland security

50

49

Environmental issues

48

51

Public housing and urban development

47

49

Criminal justice

47

52

Labor and employment issues

44

54

Foreign affairs

41

58

Education

41

59

Job creation and economic growth

39

60

Responding to natural disasters

33

66

Energy policy

27

71

Healthcare

24

75

Poverty

24

75

The nation's finances

23

76

Gallup asked this question in 2001, immediately before the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Many agencies have seen their ratings change since then -- with roughly half showing improved ratings and half showing worse ratings.

Change in Americans' Ratings of Federal Government Functions, 2001-2005

2001

2005

Percentage
Point
Change

National parks and open space

64

71

+7

Agriculture and farming

49

56

+7

Criminal justice

40

47

+7

Education

38

41

+3

Labor and employment issues

42

44

+2

Environmental issues

46

48

+2

Job creation and economic growth

39

39

0

Public housing and urban development

49

47

-2

Poverty

26

24

-2

Healthcare

27

24

-3

The nation's military and national defense

65

59

-6

Transportation

65

56

-9

Energy policy

38

27

-11

The nation's finances

34

23

-11

Foreign affairs

57

41

-16

Homeland security

--

50

--

Responding to natural disasters

--

33

--

The biggest positive changes -- all showing 7 percentage point increases in satisfaction compared with 2001 -- are national parks, agriculture, and criminal justice. Americans rate education, labor, and the environment more positively than in 2001, but not significantly so.

Some of the greatest changes during the past four years have come on the negative side of the ledger -- the biggest drop has come in the government's handling of foreign affairs, down 16 points from 2001. Military and defense, which was among the three highest rated government areas in 2001, has seen its satisfaction rating fall. The war in Iraq is a likely explanation for both declines.

High gas prices are a likely reason that satisfaction with the government's handling of energy policy is down 11 points, even though the 2001 ratings were already quite negative. There has been a similar drop in terms of the government's handling of the nation's finances, likely due to the exploding deficits brought about by increased efforts to prevent terrorism, the Iraq war, the series of income tax cuts passed in 2001-2002, and now efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Ratings of transportation have also fallen significantly, from 65% in 2001 to 56% today.

Party differences are evident in all areas, with Republicans significantly more satisfied than Democrats for all functions. That is not surprising since a Republican administration is running the government. The largest gaps between Republicans and Democrats are in the areas of national defense and foreign affairs, both showing differences of greater than 50 percentage points in rated satisfaction. The smallest partisan gap -- still 9 percentage points -- is in the area of criminal justice.

Party Differences in Ratings of Government Functions

Republican

Independent

Democrat

Rep-Dem Difference

%

%

%

The nation's military and national defense

88

57

34

+54

Foreign affairs

70

35

19

+51

Responding to natural disasters

63

24

14

+49

Labor and employment issues

69

43

20

+49

Job creation and economic growth

67

33

20

+47

Homeland security

75

45

30

+45

The nation's finances

49

17

5

+44

Public housing and urban development

68

42

32

+36

Poverty

43

18

10

+33

Environmental issues

68

43

35

+33

Education

61

34

29

+32

Healthcare

36

20

16

+20

Agriculture and farming

70

49

53

+17

Transportation

66

54

49

+17

National parks and open space

81

68

65

+16

Energy policy

37

22

24

+13

Criminal justice

52

44

43

+9

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 921 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 9-12, 2005. 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.

29. Next, we are going to name some major areas the federal government handles. For each one, please say whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied with the work the government is doing. How about -- [ITEMS A-O ROTATED, THEN ITEMS P-Q ROTATED]?

A. Agriculture and farming

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

56

38

6

2001 Sep 7-10

49

43

8

B. Criminal justice

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

47

52

1

2001 Sep 7-10

40

57

3

C. Education

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

41

59

*

2001 Sep 7-10

38

60

2

* Less than 0.5%

D. Energy policy

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

27

71

2

2001 Sep 7-10

38

57

5

E. Environmental issues

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

48

51

1

2001 Sep 7-10

46

50

4

F. The nation's finances

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

23

76

1

2001 Sep 7-10

34

62

4

G. Foreign affairs

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

41

58

1

2001 Sep 7-10

57

38

5

H. Healthcare

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

24

75

1

2001 Sep 7-10

27

71

2

I. Public housing and urban development

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

47

49

4

2001 Sep 7-10

49

43

8

J. Job creation and economic growth

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

39

60

1

2001 Sep 7-10

39

58

3

K. Labor and employment issues

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

44

54

2

2001 Sep 7-10

42

54

4

L. The nation's military and national defense

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

59

40

1

2001 Sep 7-10

65

31

4

M. National parks and open space

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

71

27

2

2001 Sep 7-10

64

31

5

N. Poverty

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

24

75

1

2001 Sep 7-10

26

71

3

O. Transportation

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Sep 12-15

56

42

2

2001 Sep 7-10

65

29

6

P. Homeland security

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

2005 Sep 12-15

50%

49

1

Q. Responding to natural disasters

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

2005 Sep 12-15

33%

66

1

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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/18724/Public-Most-Satisfied-Governments-Handling-Parks-Open-Space.aspx
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