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August 15, 2012 (TSR) – Creating good jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and reducing the federal budget deficit score highest when Americans rate 12 issues as priorities for the next president to address. Americans assign much less importance to increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and dealing with environmental concerns.
But as a whole, seventy-five percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States, while only 23 percent are satisfied, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.
The satisfaction level in August, down five percentage points from July, indicates that last month’s slightly higher satisfaction rating was not the beginning of sustained improvement, the Gallup said in a report.
Thirty-one percent of Americans continue to regard the economy as the most important problem facing the country today, followed by unemployment or jobs at 23 percent. Fifteen percent mentioned dissatisfaction with the government, while 8 percent expressed dissatisfaction with healthcare and 7 percent with the federal budget deficit.
The current level of satisfaction could put President Barack Obama’s re-election in jeopardy. Satisfaction is now similar to what it was in early August 1992 (17%), prior to George H.W. Bush’s re-election defeat. It is significantly lower than what it was in mid-August 1996 (38%) and mid-August 2004 (44%), years in which incumbents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively, were re-elected.
Gallup does not have August estimates of satisfaction in earlier incumbent re-election years. However, during 1984, satisfaction was generally near 50% when Ronald Reagan was re-elected. Gallup did not ask satisfaction at all in 1980 — the year in which Jimmy Carter was defeated — but it is probably safe to assume it was low, given a reading of 19% in November 1979 and 17% in January 1981.
Democrats (35%) are currently much more likely to be satisfied than Republicans (12%), but Democrats are hardly upbeat about the state of the nation. Independents’ satisfaction level falls in between, but is closer to that of Republicans.
Ten percent of Americans in August approve of the job Congress is doing, tying last February’s reading as the lowest in Gallup’s 38-year history of this measure. Eighty-three percent disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job.
Congress approval was 30% in Gallup’s first measure using this question wording in April 1974, and has averaged 34% across the more than 230 times it has been measured since. Congress approval has been below 40% since early 2005, and below 20% every month since June 2011 — dropping to 10% in February of this year and again now.
Before 2007, Congress approval had been below 20% only twice — in 1979 and 1992. The highest congressional job approval in Gallup’s history was 84% in October 2001, a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
Congressional approval is down among all political groups and is now virtually the same across these groups — with Democrats at 9%, independents at 11%, and Republicans at 10%. Democrats’ approval declined the most, from 18% in July.
Although Americans have generally been more negative than positive in their assessments of Congress over the past four decades, opinions have been especially negative in recent years — and approval has again in August fallen to the record-low reading of 10%, last measured in February. Americans’ views of Congress are so bad that it has now been more than a year since Gallup’s monthly assessment was as high as 20%.
Over the past two months, Americans’ confidence in the economy has declined, and much of the positive momentum seen earlier in the year has been lost, reflecting the current economic situation. The July jobs report the U.S. government released Aug. 3 showed unemployment had increased, but more jobs were added than expected, perhaps preventing a larger decline in confidence.
Stock prices have also generally remained flat over the past several weeks, with no major gains or losses being sustained, and little has changed in the European economy. If economic indicators remain flat, as they have over the past two months, little change can be expected in the Economic Confidence Index. However, the U.S. presidential election may spur a reaction — possibly invoking a brief rally in Americans’ confidence about the direction of the nation, including the economy.
Americans’ to-do list for the president on Jan. 20, 2013 — whether it be Obama or Romney — includes creating good jobs, reducing government corruption, and reducing the federal budget deficit. Supporters of both candidates agree about the importance of jobs and corruption, while the deficit is a higher priority for Romney supporters than Obama supporters. In turn, Obama supporters believe the next president should have healthcare, Social Security and Medicare, and public education among his highest priorities.
Job creation has certainly been and will continue to be a major topic during the remainder of the campaign. And both candidates will surely need to outline their plans for reducing the federal budget deficit. However, it is unclear whether government corruption will become a major issue in the campaign, even though Americans see reducing it as an important goal.
For more polls, go to Gallup website.