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Politics's Top Stories of 2013
Politics's Top Stories of 2013

A review of the year's major findings, from politics to well-being

by Art Swift

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- chronicled Americans' responses to the major issues and events that will define 2013 in the annals of history, from Edward Snowden's revelations about U.S. government spying to the federal government shutdown, to the possibility of war with Syria. Gallup's editors and writers explored what was perhaps the biggest development of the year in the U.S., the roll out of the new healthcare law. They documented record-high support for legalizing marijuana and continued majority support for gay marriage, while establishing new metrics that chart Americans' use of online education and their views about this burgeoning area.

This list represents some of the top stories on in 2013 that our editors have selected:

  • In the U.S., 69% remain unaffected by health law to date. Gallup reported on different aspects of the Affordable Care Act throughout 2013, including how the law did not affect the vast majority of Americans almost two months after the website debuted and nearly four years after the president signed the bill into law. Gallup also found that young Americans are the least familiar with the healthcare law -- the segment of the population President Barack Obama was counting on most to sign up for health coverage.
  • For the first time, Americans favor legalizing marijuana. In a year's time, support in the U.S. for marijuana legalization rose 10 percentage points to 58%, on the heels of successful ballot initiatives to legalize pot in Colorado and Washington. Gallup has tracked this question since 1969, when support for marijuana legalization was at 12%. This trend may continue strongly into 2014 when California considers whether to legalize the drug statewide.
  • Same-sex marriage support solidifies above 50% in the U.S. Demonstrating that recent Gallup trends on this subject were no fluke, Gallup found 53% of Americans in 2013 supporting gay marriage, matching the record high found in 2011 and 2012. As recently as 2005, support for gay marriage was at 37%.
  • In the U.S., 52% of blacks are unhappy with societal treatment. Amid the intense interest in circumstances surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, Gallup published a weeklong series on the state of race relations in the U.S. Perhaps the most notable finding was that just prior to the verdict in the George Zimmerman case, 52% of blacks were unhappy with their treatment by society at large, which was significantly lower than what was recorded between 2001 and 2008, before Obama was elected president.
  • Coloradans least obese, West Virginians most for the third year. According to data collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, Colorado residents were the least likely in the nation to be obese in 2012, making it the only state where less than 20% of adults are obese. West Virginia -- also for a third year in a row -- was the state with the highest obesity rate, at 33.5%.
  • Lincoln, Neb., bests all cities in well-being in 2012. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index determined that Lincoln, Neb., had the highest well-being of 189 U.S. metropolitan areas, while Charleston, W.Va., had the lowest well-being. Washington, D.C., and San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont ranked highest among the 52 largest metros.
  • In the U.S., online education rated the best for value and options. Amid ongoing debates about the value of traditional brick-and-mortar schools, Gallup found that Americans see online education as giving students a wide range of curricula options and providing good value for the money. Yet Americans also tended to think online education provides less rigorous testing and grading, less-qualified instructors, and has less credence with employers compared with traditional, classroom-based education.
  • Republican favorability sinks to a record low. During the government shutdown in October, Gallup featured a weeklong series on the implications of the political events in Washington. In this story, Americans gave the GOP a 28% favorability rating, the lowest for either major political party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992.
  • In the U.S., perceived need for a third party reaches a new high. During the tense shutdown negotiations, public frustration with both political parties resulted in 60% of Americans saying there was a need for a third major political party, an all-time high. This was even higher than when Gallup asked the question in 2010, as the Tea Party was emerging as a force in politics.
  • Weekly drop in U.S. economic confidence is the largest since 2008. The shutdown resulted in a severe drop in Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index, the largest seen since Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008. The drop was sharper than when the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rate increased to 9.8% in 2009 and when this year's sequestration took effect.
  • Americans disapprove of U.S. government surveillance programs. Edward Snowden became a household name when he disclosed a National Security Agency system to monitor communications in the U.S. A majority of Americans in June said they disapproved of the government program, though Democrats at the time approved by a nine-point margin, 49% approving vs. 40% disapproving.
  • Obama's weekly job score ties his lowest. President Obama found himself with lower than 50% weekly average approval ratings for most of the year, declining sharply from 57% in the wake of the Newtown school shootings in December 2012 to a low of 40% in late November 2013. This tied the lowest weekly average of his presidency measured in late summer 2011 as he battled Congress over the debt ceiling.
  • Since the end of the U.S. recession, more seniors report being in the workforce. As the U.S. economy continued its sluggish recovery from the recession and global economic crisis, Gallup found that more seniors and fewer young adults were in the workforce now compared with 2010.
  • U.S. support for action in Syria is low vs. past conflicts. The possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria received considerable attention in Congress and by the media this year. Gallup discovered that Americans' support for intervening in the country was the lowest recorded for any possible military intervention in the past 20 years, including the conflict in the Balkans in 1999. Russia helped broker an agreement that averted U.S. military action.

Stay with for more news and analysis in 2014.

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