WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As lawmakers in Washington focus on opening the government after the Oct. 1 partial shutdown, raising the debt limit, and debating the merits of the Affordable Care Act, Americans say creating jobs is the most important way for the federal government to improve the economy.
These results are based on a Gallup poll conducted Sept. 19-20, prior to the government shutdown on Oct. 1, in which Americans were asked in an open-ended format to say the most important thing the federal government can do to improve the U.S. economy. The 22% who mentioned creating jobs were not more specific about how this could be accomplished. Previous Gallup research has shown that Americans favor spending government money on a series of job creation proposals, including lowering taxes for businesses that create jobs in the U.S. and a program that would employ people to work on infrastructure repair projects.
Second on Americans' list of suggestions -- that Congress should figure out how to cooperate and get things done -- mirrors the types of responses Americans give when asked why they disapprove of the job Congress is doing. This also fits with the recent finding that Americans say dysfunction in government is the most important problem now facing the nation.
The next three recommendations have to do with how the government deals with the money it controls, including balancing the budget and cutting spending, changing the way Americans are taxed, and redirecting foreign aid monies to domestic concerns. The fact that a combined 21% of Americans focus on Congress working better together or balancing the budget suggests that a sizable minority see the current conflict in Washington as affecting the economy. This connection is reinforced by the recent and dramatic drop in economic confidence after the Oct. 1 shutdown.
Although defunding the healthcare law has been a controversial sticking point in the debate over funding the government and avoiding the shutdown, relatively few Americans (5%) mention repeal or taking other actions to improve healthcare as the best way to help the economy.
Americans' Top Suggestion to Businesses: Hire More Workers
In the same poll, Gallup asked Americans what businesses and corporations themselves could do to improve the economy, and creating jobs again topped the list. Thirty-one percent of Americans say businesses can create jobs and hire more people, and 8% each cite bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. and paying higher wages.
Other suggestions with at least 5% of mentions deal with governmental, rather than business, actions, including changes to the healthcare law or system, and Congress and the government working together. Fewer Americans recommend that businesses treat their people better and watch their bottom line.
Americans have reacted negatively toward Washington politicians' inability to work together to end the government shutdown and the current brinksmanship over the pending federal debt ceiling deadline. Thus, it is not surprising that some Americans see greater governmental cooperation and compromise as the best way for the federal government and corporations to improve the U.S. economy. Even so, at a time of declining economic confidence, the public believes that creating jobs is the key to a robust economy.
President Barack Obama tried to refocus on the economy in a series of speeches this summer, but the Syrian conflict, controversy over the healthcare law in Congress, and fiscal debates have seemingly drawn attention away from his economic agenda. Americans who suggest that cooperation in Washington is the top way to improve the economy may feel that by quickly resolving issues such as the federal budget and the debt limit, lawmakers and business leaders may be able to turn their attention to improving the economy.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 19-20, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random split sample of 1,027 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
The results on government fixing the economy are based on 490 national adults and have a margin of sampling error of ±6 percentage points.
The results on businesses fixing the economy are based on 527 national adults and have a margin of sampling error of ±5 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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.