PRINCETON, NJ -- Economic issues overshadow all others as Americans' primary concerns. Thirty-six percent say unemployment or jobs and 30% say the economy in general is the most important problem facing the United States. Only one other issue, dissatisfaction with government, is above 10%.
From a broader perspective, Americans are nearly twice as likely to mention any economic issue, 76%, as any non-economic issue, 39%, as the nation's top problem.
The results are based on a Nov. 3-6 Gallup poll. The economy in general or unemployment has ranked as the No. 1 overall issue since February 2008, with unemployment leading in the last three months.
The ongoing concern about the economy helps explain the high level of dissatisfaction with current conditions in the United States. Now, 12% of Americans are satisfied and 86% dissatisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. Satisfaction has ranged between 11% and 13% since August, slightly above Gallup's historical low rating of 7% in October 2008.
The only other times Gallup has measured satisfaction below 15% were in 1979 during the energy crisis, during the economic slowdown of 1992, and in 2008 and early 2009 -- most of which were recorded after the Wall Street financial crisis.
In a perhaps ominous sign for Barack Obama as he seeks re-election next year, today's 12% satisfaction rating is no better than when he took office in January 2009. Satisfaction did rise in the early stages of the Obama administration, to as high as 36% in August 2009, but has since drifted back down.
The historical average for U.S. satisfaction since 1979, when Gallup first asked the question, is 39%. The all-time high was 71% in February 1999.
Americans are clear on what they think ails the United States most at this time -- the economy and unemployment. President Obama has been unsuccessful in getting Congress to pass his jobs bill, though he has taken some recent steps to address economic problems by issuing executive orders to help veterans find jobs, help with repayment of student loans, and make it easier for homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage to keep their houses.
Those measures alone are not likely to do much to improve the economy, but there is still time for the economy to recover before voters decide a year from now whether Obama deserves a second term in office. If the economy does not recover and Americans remain highly dissatisfied with the state of the nation, Obama may join George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter as recent one-term presidents doomed by a sagging economy.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 3-6, 2011, with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
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 landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.