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Americans Say Government, Economy Most Important Problems

Americans Say Government, Economy Most Important Problems

by Rebecca Riffkin

Story Highlights

  • The economy, government most commonly named problems
  • More Americans say immigration top problem than in October
  • Republicans more likely than Democrats to name immigration

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The economy in general and government are the issues Americans are most likely to name as the most important problems facing the country in November. These are followed closely by mentions of immigration and unemployment.

Recent Trends in Top Four "Most Important" U.S. Problems

Government, unemployment and the economy in general have ranked among the most frequently named problems since the beginning of the year. Mentions of immigration increased sharply in July, in response to a large wave of young immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Mentions dipped from 12% in September to 7% in October, perhaps because the issue was overshadowed by the Ebola crisis. However, immigration is now back up to 13%.

Mentions of disease, and Ebola specifically, rose to 5% in October, debuting on the list of issues that at least 3% of Americans mention. However, in November, 2% mention Ebola, perhaps because they perceive the threat as less severe than it was a month ago.

Recent Trend for Most Important U.S. Problem

As is typically the case, Americans of differing party affiliations often have dissimilar ideas of the most important problem. For example, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (27%) are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners (14%) to list the economy in general. And Republicans are slightly more likely than Democrats to mention immigration.

Party differences are smaller on government dissatisfaction, healthcare and unemployment.

Top Five U.S. Problems, by Party, November 2014

Mentions of immigration increased similarly between October and November for Republicans (from 9% to 16%) and Democrats (from 4% to 10%). Although it is a pressing issue in many Americans' minds, the prospects for government action are unclear. President Barack Obama is discussing executive action on immigration reform and says he is tired of waiting for Congress to act. Some Republicans are pushing for compromise, and party leaders may be waiting for January, when the GOP takes full control of Congress, but have not issued a plan for action on immigration.

Bottom Line

Government and the economy in general continue to be the most commonly cited problems facing the U.S. Mentions of immigration increased in November after a dip in October. During the current "lame duck" session, congressional leaders may be hesitant to act on these issues -- though this would be the last chance to act for members of Congress who were not re-elected. For their part, Republicans may be waiting until January, when their new Senate majority is sworn in.

Americans are more likely to say they want the new Republican Congress rather than Obama to set the nation's course in January. But more than anything, Americans want Congress to fix itself and begin compromising, a view reinforced by Americans' continuing to name the government itself as the most important problem facing the nation.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 6-9, 2014, with a random sample of 828 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, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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