PRINCETON, NJ -- After two months as the clear No. 1 perceived problem facing the country, unemployment/jobs dipped to No. 2 in May, while "the economy" in general moved back into the top position. At the same time, Americans grew more likely to name immigration (including illegal immigration) as the nation's most important problem, moving that issue into fifth place.
Gallup measures public perceptions of the nation's most important problem every month. The 10% citing immigration or illegal immigration in the latest poll, conducted May 3-6, is the highest Gallup has recorded in more than two years. Mentions of immigration last reached double digits in January 2008, and peaked at 19% in April 2006.
The heightened concern about immigration comes as a new Arizona law designed to address illegal immigration has drawn nationwide attention. There is increased concern both across the country and across the political spectrum. However, increased mentions of immigration are most pronounced in the Western states, surging from 2% in April to 16% in May, as well as among Republicans and conservatives.
Healthcare Still in Top Five
Mentions of healthcare reached 26% last summer, as national debate over healthcare reform intensified, and registered 23% in February. Since the bill's passage in March, concern about healthcare has subsided -- down to 15% in the current poll -- though it remains one of the leading public concerns.
Of the top 10 "most important problems" named this month, the economy, unemployment, healthcare, government leadership, and immigration are each mentioned by at least 10% of Americans. Except for the federal budget deficit/federal debt, at 9%, all other issues in the top 10 receive fewer than 5% of mentions.
Americans continue to view unemployment as one of the nation's leading problems, but they put slightly less emphasis on it today than they did in April. At the same time, the percentage of Americans citing immigration as the top problem has swelled from 2% to 10%. The even steeper increases seen among Republicans and conservatives highlight a major aspect of that concern -- the belief that illegal immigration needs to be curtailed.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,029 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 3-6, 2010. 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.