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Americans Split on Worth of U.S. Being No. 1 Economically

Americans Split on Worth of U.S. Being No. 1 Economically

Story Highlights

  • Half of Americans say it's important for U.S. to be No. 1
  • Percentage saying this is important is up since 2007
  • One in six Americans say U.S. is the leading economic power

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fifty percent of Americans view it as "important" for the U.S. to be No. 1 in the world economically. This is up from 39% in 2007, when Gallup last asked the question, and is the highest figure since 1993. The other half of Americans (49%) say it is "not that important" for the U.S. to be No. 1, as long as it is among the leading economic powers.

Trend: Importance of U.S. Being No. 1 in the World Economically

These data come from Gallup's Feb. 8-11 World Affairs poll, conducted just months after China overtook the U.S. as the world's largest national economy in terms of purchasing power. Whereas half of Americans now say it's important for the U.S. to be the world's leading economic power, Americans were less likely between 1999 and 2007, when roughly four in 10 said this and about six in 10 viewed being No. 1 as "not that important."

Having been the world's largest economy since the 1870s, Americans -- at least in recent decades -- may have taken their country's leading economic stature for granted. But as the bloc of BRICS countries -- an economic alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- continues to be an economic force to be reckoned with and has created its own bank, Americans have begun to value being the world's dominant economic power more highly. In recent years, Americans have viewed China in particular as the leading economic power.

Republicans Most Likely to See No. 1 Status as Important

Republicans feel strongest about the importance of U.S. economic dominance; a majority (64%) say it is important for the country to be No. 1 economically. Meanwhile, less than half of independents (48%) and Democrats (41%) agree that it is important.

Since 2000, Republicans have become increasingly likely to say being No. 1 economically is important, while Democrats' views haven't changed. Independents grew less concerned about this between 2000 and 2007, but have since grown significantly more inclined to see it as important.

Trend: Importance of U.S. Being No. 1 in the World Economically, by Party

Most Americans Don't View the U.S. as the Sole World Economic Power

While half of Americans say it is important for the U.S. to be No. 1 economically, only 17% believe it actually is. Rather, the vast majority of Americans, 80%, believe the U.S. is but one of several leading economic powers -- about the same as in 2010, when 82% held this view.

The 17% who believe the U.S. is the world's No. 1 economy ties for the lowest percentage to say so in the six times Gallup has asked this question. Americans were most confident about the United States' global economic stature in 1999 and 2000, when 40% and 39%, respectively, saw it as No. 1. This view has since waned, dropping to 25% in 2007 before falling again to 17% in 2010, where it remains.

Trend: Americans' Views of U.S. as Leading Economic Power

Bottom Line

Despite a major recovery in Americans' ratings of the U.S. economy over the past five years, Americans' views about the nation's economic clout in the world haven't changed. A mere 17% say the U.S. is No. 1 economically, while most say it is one of several leading economic powerhouses. When Gallup in recent years has asked Americans, in a separate question, to say who the leading economic power is, China has overtaken the United States.

At the same time, Americans are now more likely than they have been in the recent past to view being No. 1 as important. As the U.S. cedes its role as the world's dominant economy to China in terms of purchasing power, it could mark a psychological shift for many Americans who, throughout their lives, have seen the United States' world-leading economic role as a given.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 8-11, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 837 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. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

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 complete question responses and trends.

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