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Economy, Government Top U.S. Problem List

Economy, Government Top U.S. Problem List

by Zac Auter

Story Highlights

  • Economy tops Americans' concern as most important issue
  • Overall, 71% of Americans dissatisfied with country's direction
  • GOP dissatisfaction with country's course outpaces Democrats'

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans in April continue to cite the economy as the single most important problem for the U.S, with mentions holding steady at 17% over the past several months. Dissatisfaction with the government also retains the second-place spot, with 13% of Americans naming it as the leading U.S. concern.

Recent Trend, Most Important Problem
What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? [OPEN-ENDED]
  Feb '16% Mar '16% Apr '16%
Economy in general 17 17 17
Dissatisfaction with government 13 15 13
Unemployment/Jobs 10 11 9
Immigration 10 8 8
Race relations/Racism 5 6 7
Terrorism 7 6 6
Federal budget deficit 6 5 5
National security 7 3 5
Healthcare 6 8 5
Election/Election reform * 5 4
April 6-10, 2016
Gallup Poll

The results are based on Gallup's April 6-10 update of Americans' views of the most important problem facing the U.S. While concerns about the economy and government are the only problems named by at least one in 10 Americans, several other issues register a notable level of concern, including unemployment (9%) and immigration (8%).

Seven percent of Americans name racial issues -- including racism and race relations -- as America's top problem. This continues a trend of recent elevated concern about the issue, with between 5% and 7% mentioning it each of the past four months. Americans' mentions of racism and race relations as the most important problem facing the country spiked in December 2014 to 13% amid protests over high-profile incidents of police brutality toward blacks. For more than a decade prior to December 2014, no more than 5% of Americans had named racism or race relations as the top problem facing the U.S., with the figure often measuring 0%.

This month's result ties for the highest percentage of Americans naming race relations as America's leading issue since July 2015. That month, 9% of Americans cited race relations as the country's top concern, weeks after white South Carolina resident Dylann Roof killed nine black parishioners at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Overall, 40% of Americans mention at least one problem that is economic in nature, similar to the past two months. These economic concerns include generic mentions of the economy and unemployment, as well as the federal budget deficit, inequality and wage issues.

However, as has been the case for some time, an even larger proportion of Americans -- 69% -- mention a noneconomic problem, with the chief ones being government, immigration issues, race issues and terrorism.

GOP More Concerned About Economy and Country's Direction


In last month's poll, concerns about the economy revealed a stark partisan gap, with 28% of Republicans citing the economy as the country's top issue, compared with 12% of Democrats -- a net difference of 16 percentage points. Though Republicans continue to be more likely than Democrats and independents to cite the economy as the leading U.S. concern, the partisan gap contracted somewhat in April. Now, 10 percentage points separate the parties, with 23% of Republicans mentioning the economy as the county's top concern and Democrats holding steady at 13%.

Americans' Dissatisfaction With the Way Things Are Going in the U.S.
  Satisfied Dissatisfied
Republicans 14% 85%
Independents 22% 75%
Democrats 42% 54%
Total 26% 71%
April 6-10, 2016
Gallup Poll

The partisan gap in concern about the economy echoes broader assessments about the country's direction. While a large majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the country's course (71%), there is a wide partisan gap. Though majorities of both Republicans and Democrats say they are dissatisfied with the country's direction, Republican dissatisfaction (85%) far outpaces that of Democrats (54%).


No single issue appears to be weighing on Americans as a dominant national concern, with no more than 17% naming one issue. However, recently elevated mentions of economic problems in the past three months, tied with broad dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, help to explain the negative flavor of the 2016 election cycle. The candidates are talking less about maintaining the progress that's been made since the recession or about building on successes in domestic policy, and more about correcting significant problems in the labor market, such as wages, immigration, national security and other important areas.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 6-10, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,015 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 60% cellphone respondents and 40% 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 the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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