Religion and Social Trends

Economy, War/Terrorism Most Important Problems

Increased concerns about war/terrorism in wake of recent attacks

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are less concerned about the economy and more concerned about war and terrorism than they were last month, according to a new Gallup survey. Similar percentages of adults now identify the economy and war/terrorism as the most important problems facing the United States. The decline in concern about the economy and increase in concern about war/terrorism no doubt reflect recent positive economic news on the one hand, and news about increased attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq on the other. A majority of the public remains dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country, though sentiment is slightly better than what Gallup has measured in the past two months.

The poll, conducted Nov. 3-5, finds 37% of all Americans identifying some aspect of the economy -- including personal and national conditions -- as the most important problem facing the country, down from 46% last month.

 

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

Nov
3-5,
2003

Oct
6-8,
2003

ECONOMIC PROBLEMS (NET)

37

46

1

Economy in general

20

25

2

Unemployment/Jobs

12

15

3

Lack of money

2

1

4

Federal budget deficit/federal debt

2

3

5

Taxes

1

2

6

Fuel/Oil prices

1

1

7

High cost of living/inflation

1

1

8

Corporate corruption

1

1

NON-ECONOMIC PROBLEMS (NET)

71

65

1

Fear of war/feelings of fear in this country/war in Iraq

19

11

2

Terrorism

9

8

3

Poor healthcare/hospitals; high cost of healthcare

9

6

4

Ethics/moral/religious/family decline; dishonesty; lack of integrity

8

8

5

Education/poor education/access to education

5

6

6

Poverty/hunger/homelessness

5

5

7

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

5

6

8

Foreign aid/focus overseas

4

4

9

National security

3

3

10

Crime/Violence

3

2

11

Medicare/Social Security issues

2

2

12

Drugs

2

2

13

Immigration/Illegal aliens

2

2

14

International issues/problems

2

3



Among the non-economic problems, 19% of Americans mention fear of war or the war in Iraq, while 9% mention terrorism. Taken together, 28% of the mentions include some aspect of war/terrorism, compared with 32% of mentions about the economy in general (20%) and jobs (12%).

Over the past year, concerns about war/terrorism rose during the months leading to the war with Iraq, but then declined after the major fighting in Iraq ended.

Most Important Problem
Economy vs. War/Terrorism
2003

The recent increase in concern about war/terrorism comes in the wake of several recent attacks on American troops in Iraq, including the Nov. 2 downing of a helicopter that killed 15 Americans.

Public More Upbeat About Economy

As news from Iraq has grown more negative, news about the economy has grown more positive. The economy's reported high growth rate in the third quarter and the continued addition of jobs in October appear to have affected the public. The latest Gallup numbers show 30% of Americans rating the economy as excellent or good, while 21% say poor -- the largest net-positive figure since the United States launched the war against Iraq.

Rating of Current Economic Conditions

Even more impressive is the 53% of Americans who say economic conditions in the country are getting better, and 37% say worse -- the most positive assessment this year of where the economy is going. The last time the public was this optimistic was in April 2002.

Economic Conditions Getting Better or Getting Worse?

Satisfaction With Way Things Are Going

Despite the much more positive assessment of the economy, the poll shows that a majority of Americans continue to be dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country, with 54% dissatisfied and 44% satisfied. These figures are similar to the 55% dissatisfied to 43% satisfied rating Gallup measured in the days leading up to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Satisfaction With the Way Things Are
Going in the United States
2001 - 2003

After Sept. 11, the public rallied around the flag, and satisfaction surged to an eventual high of 70%, with just 28% expressing dissatisfaction. The numbers declined over the next year and into 2003, reaching a low of only 36% satisfied in early March 2003, with 61% dissatisfied.

The war in Iraq brought with it another public rally, with satisfaction hitting a high in this period of 60% satisfied to 38% dissatisfied -- shortly after the United States launched its troops. But by this summer, the positive sentiments had waned and Americans were about evenly divided between being satisfied and dissatisfied. In the September and October polls, Gallup found even further erosion of positive feelings, as about 6 in 10 Americans said they were dissatisfied (57% to 58%), while just 4 in 10 (40% to 41%) said they were satisfied.

The latest numbers are slightly better than the figures measured in the past two months, but the increase is well within the poll's margin of error. It would appear that the good news about the economy is counterbalanced by the bad news coming from Iraq.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 3-5, 2003. For results based on the total sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error 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.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/9700/Economy-WarTerrorism-Most-Important-Problems.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030