PRINCETON, NJ -- As President Barack Obama's second term in office gets underway, Americans are most satisfied with the nation's military strength and preparedness, security from terrorism, and the quality of the environment, and least satisfied with the state of the economy and the way the country deals with poverty and homelessness. Americans' satisfaction with several aspects of the U.S. is significantly changed from 2005, when George W. Bush was starting his second term.
These measures of satisfaction are from Gallup's Jan. 7-10 Mood of the Nation survey, which measured Americans' satisfaction with the state of the nation in 17 different areas. Overall, half or more of Americans are satisfied with only four of the areas tested, signifying the generally negative mood picked up on other Gallup measures, including the relatively low 25% of Americans who say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country today.
Clearly, Americans view the performance of the nation's military quite positively, an attitude that is also reflected in the military's top position on Gallup's annual measure of confidence in institutions. Americans are almost equally as satisfied with the nation's efforts to fight terrorism. And, even though Obama made the need to address climate change a focus of his inaugural address, a majority of Americans say they are satisfied with the nation's environmental quality.
The public's satisfaction with the military and anti-terrorism efforts is higher today than in January 2005, when George W. Bush was inaugurated for his second term as president -- despite the Bush administration's focus on building up the U.S. military and on greatly enlarging the fight against terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
At the same time, Americans' satisfaction with the state of the economy -- the lowest-rated area tested -- has dropped by 27 percentage points since 2005. This reflects the impact of the 2008 housing crisis and financial recession, and is a stark reminder that economy-related issues remain at the top of the public's views of the most important problem facing the nation today.
The only other aspect of the state of the nation tested that shows a double-digit drop in satisfaction over the past eight years is crime -- which could reflect the impact of the mass school shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December. Relatedly, satisfaction with the nation's gun policies dropped by eight points compared with 2005.
Four areas besides the economy register lower than 40% satisfaction: poverty, taxes, immigration levels, and energy policies. These ratings have changed only modestly since January 2005.
Americans' satisfaction with the acceptance of homosexuality has increased the most since 2005 -- climbing 17 percentage points. Satisfaction with the availability of affordable healthcare and the Social Security and Medicare systems is also up significantly. But all receive satisfaction ratings today between 40% (healthcare) and 49% (acceptance of homosexuality). The increase in satisfaction with the availability of affordable healthcare no doubt partly reflects a reaction to the signature achievement of President Obama's first term -- the passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
The mood of the nation in general is not particularly positive these days, as Americans express high levels of dissatisfaction with the majority of the 17 different aspects of U.S. life tested.
Lawmakers looking for direction on their policy priorities need look no further than the economy, the aspect of life about which Americans are least satisfied. But there is no shortage of other areas Americans are unhappy about, including such things as poverty, taxes, immigration, and energy -- all near the bottom of the satisfaction list.
President Obama's inauguration this month comes eight years after his predecessor was inaugurated for his second term, and Americans' views of the state of the nation have shifted somewhat since that point. Notably, while Americans are much less satisfied with the economy than they were in 2005, they have become more upbeat about the acceptance of homosexuality, healthcare, and the Social Security and Medicare systems.
Unchanged from 2005 are Americans' high levels of satisfaction with the military and with the government's efforts to keep the nation secure from terrorism -- which are even higher today after the various significant military events that have occurred over the past eight years, including the rapid drawdown of the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the high-profile killing of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. special forces.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 7-10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,011 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 of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cell phone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phones 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 to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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.