Americans' Satisfaction With the State of the Nation

by Joseph Carroll

Americans mostly dissatisfied because of economic factors

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Over the course of the year, Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the country has been quite low -- with fewer than 3 in 10 Americans saying they are satisfied. But what are the reasons why Americans are dissatisfied with the state of the nation? The latest Gallup Panel poll asked Americans to explain, in their own words, the reasons why they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country at this time. Factors relating to the nation's economy -- including jobs, housing, taxes, the stock market, the budget deficit, and personal finances -- are commonly mentioned as both positive and negative factors. But, dissatisfaction stems not only from the economy but also from frustration with government, perceived inaction on domestic issues such as healthcare and immigration, and the war in Iraq.

Mood of the Nation Trends

Every month, Gallup asks Americans if they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country. In the latest update, taken from Gallup's Sept. 14-16, 2007 poll, just 28% of Americans say they are satisfied, while 71% say they are dissatisfied. This marks a slight up-tick since August, but the public's overall satisfaction continues to track below 30%, ranging between 24% and 28% since May. Satisfaction was slightly higher earlier in the year, fluctuating between 30% and 35% from January through April.

The current 28% satisfaction level is very low by historical standards. Since Gallup first asked this question in 1979, the average percentage of Americans saying they are satisfied with conditions in the country has been 43%, with a low of 12% in July 1979 and a high of 71% in February 1999.

Reasons Americans Are Satisfied With the State of the Nation

The latest Gallup Panel poll, conducted Sept. 24-27, 2007, asked those who say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country at this time to give some reasons for their satisfaction.

The top four reasons all dealt with the economy -- including perceptions that the economy is doing well (32%), that the United States is better off than most countries (16%), that respondents' own personal situation is good (13%), and that jobs are plentiful or that there is low unemployment (12%).

(Asked of those who say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country at this time) What are some of the reasons why you are satisfied with the way things are going in this country? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

 

2007 Sep 24-27

%

Economy is doing well

32

U.S. better off than most countries/high standard of living

16

Personal situation is good

13

Jobs are plentiful/low unemployment

12

Freedom

8

Bush/leaders doing a good job

7

No terrorist attacks against U.S.

6

Feeling of safety/security

5

War in Iraq going well

5

Stock market doing well

3

Education/school system is good

3

Interest rates low

2

Gas prices are lower

2

   

Other

15

No reason in particular (vol.)

7

No opinion

4

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

All told, 60% of respondents mention some aspect of the economy as the reason why they are satisfied, which strongly suggests that Americans' satisfaction is largely grounded in economics.

Beyond the economy, 15% mention positive remarks about international matters, including the war in Iraq or terrorism. The remaining responses concentrate mostly on a good education system in the country, freedom, or that President George W. Bush is doing a good job.

The following table provides a more in-depth look at the types of responses in each of these three categories that people offered as reasons why they are satisfied with the state of the nation at this time.

 

Reasons Americans Are Satisfied With the Way Things Are Going in the Country
Sept. 24-27, 2007

 

%

Net Economic Factors

60

Economy is doing well

 

U.S. better off than most countries/high standard of living

 

Personal situation is good

 

Jobs are plentiful/low unemployment

 

Stock market doing well

 

Interest rates low

 

Gas prices are lower

 
   

Net Iraq/Terrorism Factors

15

No terrorist attacks against U.S.

 

Feeling of safety/security

 

War in Iraq going well

 
   

Net General Factors

18

Freedom

 

Bush/leaders doing a good job

 

Education/school system is good

 

Reasons Americans Are Dissatisfied With the State of the Nation

Economic factors also figure prominently in the reasoning for those dissatisfied with the state of the nation, but nowhere near the extent as those who are satisfied. In fact, the war in Iraq ties with perceptions of a poor economy as the single biggest reason for dissatisfaction.

(Asked of those who say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country at this time) What are some of the reasons why you are dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

 

2007 Sep 24-27

%

War in Iraq not going well

23

Economy is doing poorly

20

Healthcare issues

13

Congress not doing anything

9

Government has wrong priorities

8

Bush is doing a poor job

8

High gas prices

6

Lack of jobs in the country

6

Immigration issues

6

Corruption/scandals in government/lack of ethics

5

High cost of living in this country

5

Housing market slow/home prices down

4

Government encroaching on individual rights/freedoms

4

Immorality/moving away from God/religion

3

Jobs being moved overseas

3

Political leaders not working together/bickering/too partisan

3

Crime

3

Budget deficit

3

High taxes

3

Concerns about the environment/global warming

2

Problems with the education system

2

Country is divided/polarized

2

Mortgage crisis/home foreclosures

1

   

Other

14

No reason in particular (vol.)

*

No opinion

1

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

* = Less than 0.5%

When the responses are consolidated into categories, 42% mention economic factors for the reason for their dissatisfaction at this time, while 36% mention frustration with the government, 27% mention specific domestic issues like healthcare, immigration, or morality, and 23% specifically mention the war in Iraq.

 

Reasons Americans Are Dissatisfied With the Way Things Are Going in the Country
Sept. 24-27, 2007

 

%

Net Economic Factors

42

Economy is doing poorly

 

High gas prices

 

Lack of jobs in the country

 

High cost of living in this country

 

Housing market slow/home prices down

 

Jobs being moved overseas

 

Budget deficit

 

High taxes

 

Mortgage crisis/home foreclosures

 
   

Net Government Dissatisfaction Factors

36

Congress not doing anything

 

Government has wrong priorities

 

Bush is doing a poor job

 

Corruption/scandals in government/lack of ethics

 

Government encroaching on individual rights/freedoms

 

Political leaders not working together/bickering/too partisan

 

Country is divided/polarized

 
   

Net Specific Domestic Issue Factors

27

Healthcare issues

 

Immigration issues

 

Immorality/moving away from God/religion

 

Crime

 

Concerns about the environment/global warming

 

Problems with the education system

 
   

Net Iraq Factors

23

War in Iraq not going well

 

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 24-27, 2007. Respondents were drawn from Gallup's household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. The final sample is weighted so it is representative of U.S. adults nationwide. 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.

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,010 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 14-16, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 361 adults who say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country at this time, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 629 adults who say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country at this time, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 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.

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