PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' satisfaction with the United States is no better today than a month ago; if anything, it may be a bit worse. Twenty-six percent of Americans interviewed Oct. 1-4 say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, down slightly from 29% in early September. Currently, 71% are dissatisfied, the highest level since March.
After starting the year at near-record-low levels, U.S. satisfaction increased, peaking at 36% in early August, but fell to 29% by late August/early September before edging down to today's 26%.
"Most of the decrease in U.S. satisfaction since August has occurred among independents (down 10 points) and Democrats (down 14 points), with little change seen among Republicans "
The reason for declining satisfaction since August is not clear from the issues Americans name as the nation's "most important problem" -- a question Gallup asks each month. While the economy continues to be the top-ranked problem, the percentage citing it has been trending downward in recent months. At the same time, since early August there have been only minor increases in the percentages naming other highly ranked issues, including unemployment and dissatisfaction with government, and there has been no real change in mentions of healthcare, Iraq, or the federal budget deficit. (The full results are shown at the end of this report.)
The 26% citing the economy in general this month is down from 33% in early August and well below the 48% seen in April. In fact, mentions of the economy have declined, at least slightly, each month since February and are now at their lowest level since January 2008. However, since last year, some of this concern has been redirected into unemployment; that issue shows a sharp increase in mentions this year compared with 2008.
The trend in satisfaction by party identification may offer some insights about the cause of the overall decline. Most of the decrease in U.S. satisfaction since August has occurred among independents (down 10 points) and Democrats (down 14 points), with little change seen among Republicans -- whose satisfaction was already quite low.
A similar pattern is seen in Congress's job ratings this month, with approval dropping sharply since late August/early September among Democrats and moderately among independents, but showing little change among Republicans.
Americans' satisfaction with the country remains higher than at the start of the year; however, some of the increase seen on this measure in the first half of 2009 has been erased since August. Neither the economy, generally, nor unemployment specifically are obvious causes, as the percentages of Americans naming these as the nation's top problem have either not changed much or declined in recent months. Given that the decline in Americans' satisfaction is mainly concentrated among Democrats and independents, and that the pattern is mirrored in approval ratings of Congress, Congress' recent actions -- or inaction -- may be an important factor.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,013 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 1-4, 2009. 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.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
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.