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January 6 2016

Americans Name Government as Top Problem in 2015

Patrice J. Lee

For the second year in a row, government is named the most important problem facing Americans. Unemployment and the economy take the next two spots but are increasingly less of a concern.

Gallup released yearly averages of combined monthly surveys and finds that in 2015, on average 16 percent of Americans mentioned some facet of government – from President Obama, political conflict, and Congress – as our biggest headache. This is down two points from 2014 annual averages. This joins other data of our disdain for ineffective and inefficient government including Congress’ woefully low approval ratings and President Obama’s lackluster approval ratings that hover below 50 percent.

The economy takes the second spot for the second year in a row, but only 13 percent of Americans mentioned it compared to 17 percent in 2014. For six years prior, the economy was our nation’s biggest concern among wide margins of Americans – reaching as many as 40 percent in 2009.

Unemployment is in third place with just 8 percent worried about being out of work. This is down almost 50 percent from 2014 when 15 percent of Americans indicated unemployment was the biggest issue.

Finally, immigration rounds out the top four issues – tying with unemployment at 8 percent. This is the first time since 2007 that immigration cracked the top four. Gallup points to the terrorist attacks of 2015 as likely reasons:

Notably, 2015 was the first year since 2007 in which immigration was one of the top four most frequently cited problems, although this is mainly because mentions of healthcare dropped from 10% in 2014 to 6% in 2015, making room for immigration at the top. Mentions of immigration held steady in 2015 at 8%. Rounding out the top 10 were a constellation of problems each averaging 5%, including ethical/moral decline, race relations/racism, terrorism, the federal budget deficit or debt and education.

The other story with this polling is that 2015 was the first year in which no single issue averaged 20 percent or more.

In aggregate, a little more than one third of Americans (34 percent) named fiscal issues such as the economy, unemployment, the budget deficit, and inflation as top issues, indicating that perhaps the economy has returned to a place of stability for some Americans. Lack of money was only named by 2 percent of Americans and poverty/hunger/homelessness only named by 3 percent. Given a third of Americans named fiscal issues as most important suggests we should infer that the economy is truly back on track.

The bottom line, according to Gallup, is that going into 2016, the federal government is the issue most likely tp be on our minds with no other issue challenging its prominence.  Those seeking to be our leaders will have to differentiate themselves across a broad swath of issues.

This lack of a prominent public concern provides an interesting setup to the 2016 presidential election. Some Americans remain most worried about the economy; others are mainly concerned about immigration, and others are divided across a host of domestic policy concerns. This contrasts with the last three presidential election cycles when at least one issue commanded significant public attention in the year prior to the election. In 2011, for example, the dominant issues were the economy and unemployment; in 2007, the Iraq War; and in 2003, the economy. Those concerns provided a clear framework for the campaigns, something that is thus far lacking in the race for 2016.

However, as we know, anything can happen at any time. Fiscal, security, or social issues may barrel to forefront of our minds at any moment once again.

IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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