Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Survey Says: Americans Upset With Government

In Polling on March 15, 2013 at 10:58 am

The Gallup organization just reported upon their monthly survey about the issue areas Americans cite as being the most important and, in their analysis reported yesterday, a reading occurred that hadn’t been seen since the Watergate era.

When President Obama took office at the beginning of 2009, according to the regular survey issue project, 86 percent of the respondents said the economy is the “most important problem facing the United States today.” Yesterday, though the economy was still mentioned more than any other issue area, that percentage dropped to 57, the lowest recorded reading since Gallup’s June 2010 polling edition. During the Obama administration, the smallest percentage recorded citing the economy was 55.

The surprising response, however, occurred when the questioners asked the participants to be more specific. The response “economy in general” still topped the charts at 24 percent, down from 25 percent in their February 2013 edition but up from the 21 percent of respondents who answered that way in January. But 20 percent of respondents answered, “dissatisfaction with government” — making it the number two concern; and that type of response factor hadn’t been seen since June of 1974 shortly after Pres. Richard Nixon had resigned. Those answering this way jumped four full points just from last month, and pulled ahead of “unemployment/jobs” (16 percent) and the “federal budget deficit/debt” (13 percent) among the answers most given.

In terms of other issues cited, healthcare dropped to just seven percent and, despite all of the media attention paid to the gun control issue, “guns” was mentioned by just four percent of the respondents, down from six percent in February and returning to its January 2013 level.

Should this trend continue, we could begin to see a new issue discussion come to the forefront in the 2014 election cycle. If — and the Republicans will be the ones most likely to drive this particular subject — government accountability is something that begins to concern voters to the point of influencing turnout and candidate selection, we could again be potentially seeing yet another political pattern shift.

Though the March 2013 response could merely be a blip, it does detect some potential unrest within the electorate concerning this subject. Such a path should not be considered unusual in the current political context. Understanding that an increased role for government in society has been the Obama presidency’s driving force, it is only natural for the country to begin to pay more attention to just how the bureaucracy delivers those increased services.

Clearly, the amount of media attention paid to sequestration has had a major effect upon the respondents. This subject gained the most attention during the last month, but it is one of which the public has little understanding. Asked in question form as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey (March 11-12; 1,022 adult respondents), 55 percent said they did not have enough information about sequestration; 17 percent believe that the sequester taking effect is actually a good thing, and 27 percent said it is bad.

When asked if sequestration is a good or bad thing for them personally, 14 percent said it was good versus 24 percent saying bad. A full 60 percent felt that they “didn’t know enough to say.”

The Gallup monthly issue survey, conducted regularly since 1939, interviewed 1,022 adults during the March 7-10, 2013 period.

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