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Americans Continue to Cite the Economy as Top Problem

Americans Continue to Cite the Economy as Top Problem

by Zac Auter
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 17% cite the economy, 12% problems with government as top issue
  • 7% name the election as top problem facing the country
  • Overall, 31% name at least one economic issue as top concern

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With the presidential election looming, more Americans cite the economy (17%) than any other issue as the most important U.S. problem in October, followed by dissatisfaction with the government (12%). Americans' concerns about the major problems facing the country are largely consistent with what they have been throughout 2016.

Americans' Views of the Most Important U.S. Problem, October 2016
What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?
  Oct 5-9, 2016
Economy in general 17
Dissatisfaction with government 12
Race relations/Racism 10
Immigration/Illegal aliens 7
Elections/Election reform 7
National security 7
Unemployment/Jobs 6
Terrorism 5
Federal budget deficit/Federal debt 4
Poor healthcare/High cost of healthcare 4
Ethics/Moral/Religious decline 3
Crime/Violence 3
Environment/Pollution 3

Racism and race relations is the only other issue that at least 10% of Americans mentioned as a top problem in the Oct. 5-9 survey. This is down slightly from its 2016 peak of 18% in July when racial tensions flared after police killed black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and a black man killed five police officers in Dallas.

In the midst of the ongoing presidential campaign, 7% of Americans cite the election as the top U.S. problem in October -- higher than Gallup has found at this stage in recent presidential election years. In October of each presidential election year from 2000 to 2012, no more than 1% of Americans mentioned the election as one of the country's top concerns.

Concerns About Economic Issues Down From Recent Election Years

While 17% of Americans currently name the economy in general as the top problem, a combined 31% name at least one of several different economic issues, including the economy, unemployment, the wealth gap and taxes, among others. This marks the lowest level of concern about economic issues at this point in presidential election years since 2000, when 21% of Americans mentioned an economic issue as the top problem.

In October 2012 and 2008, 72% and 69% of Americans, respectively, named some economic issue as the top problem. In the 2004 presidential election, when overall mentions of the economy took a back seat to noneconomic issues such as the situation in Iraq and terrorism, 40% of Americans named an economic issue as the top concern in October.

Percentage of Americans Who Cite Economic Issues as Most Important Problem, Month Before Presidential Elections, 2000-2016
What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?
  Economic issues as most important problem
October 2016 31
October 2012 72
October 2008 69
October 2004 40
October 2000 21


Americans have typically named the economy in general as the top issue facing the country in 2016. As recently as September, registered voters chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton as the candidate better able to handle the economy, employment and taxes.

Though Trump holds a slight edge over Clinton among registered voters on economic issues, the 2016 presidential campaign has not centered on economic issues recently. In the days after Sunday's presidential debate, for example, a different set of issues has been foremost in Americans' thoughts about the campaign. According to Gallup's daily measurement of what Americans are hearing in the news, those issues include revelations that Trump has made lewd comments about women and Clinton's email scandal.

While Americans may cite the economy as the most important problem facing the country, the campaign in the past week has instead focused on the candidates' personal scandals. Thus, it is unclear to what extent Americans' current top concern will factor into this year's election outcome.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 5-9, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,017 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 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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