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Economy Remains a Diminished Top Problem in U.S.

Economy Remains a Diminished Top Problem in U.S.

Different demographic groups focus on the top-ranking issues

PRINCETON, NJ -- The economy remains at the top of Gallup's "Most Important Problem" list in July, with 23% of Americans naming it as the most important problem facing the country today, similar to the 25% who mentioned it in June. Unemployment or jobs ranks a close second at 19%, followed by healthcare at 11% and various criticisms of government, at 10%. An additional five problems, including the federal debt, education, and immigration, are each mentioned by 5% to 8% of Americans.

Most Important U.S. Problem, July 2013, by Demographic Group

The latest results are from a Gallup poll conducted July 10-14.

Not only do Americans' top perceived problems today represent a relatively diverse patchwork of issues, but a variety of subgroups prioritize the issues differently. Among the differences:

  • Hispanics are among the most likely of all demographic groups to name the economy and immigration, while blacks are at the high end for mentions of unemployment and education.
  • Women under 50 years of age have above-average mentions of healthcare and education, while women 50 and older offer relatively high mentions of ethical/moral decline.
  • Seniors, older men, postgraduates, and liberals are among the most likely to name aspects of government, particularly Congress, as the nation's top problem. At the same time, seniors, older men, Republicans, and conservatives have the highest mentions of poor leadership, including President Barack Obama, specifically.

Although the economy continues to figure prominently in Americans' assessments of the nation's challenges, fewer than 30% have mentioned the economy, generally -- and fewer than 20% have mentioned unemployment, specifically -- in Gallup's monthly measurement since last December. By contrast, in most months between February 2008 and November 2012, at least 30% of Americans named either the economy or unemployment, or both, as the nation's top problem. And that figure rose above 50% at the outset of the economic crisis in late 2008/early 2009.

2007-2013 Trend: Mentions of the Economy and Unemployment/Jobs as Most Important U.S. Problem

Bottom Line

President Barack Obama is reportedly refocusing his presidency on the economy, hoping to use a speech on Wednesday in Illinois to highlight how far the economy has come since the depths of the recent recession, and to call for Congress to act on his economic agenda. Although Americans may be less anxious about the economy than they have been in the not-too-distant past, the economy remains the top mention for "most important problem," at the same time economic confidence has stalled in mildly negative territory.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 10-14, 2013, with a random sample of 2,027 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 margin of sampling error is ±3 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% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone 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, and cellphone mostly). 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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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