skip to main content
Snapshot: Government Remains Top Problem for U.S.

Snapshot: Government Remains Top Problem for U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans remain most likely to say the government is the greatest problem facing the U.S., with 20% naming some aspect of the federal government or its elected leaders as the nation's top problem. This month's figure is on the lower end of the 18% to 25% range of Americans who have seen government as the country's top problem since President Donald Trump took office last year. It was a bit lower than that for the three years prior.

graph 1

The latest figures come from Gallup's Values and Beliefs poll, conducted May 1-10.

Background: Americans have been most likely to cite government dysfunction or poor performance by specific elected leaders as the top U.S. problem for 17 months in a row, though it has shared the top spot twice in that time -- with the economy at 11% in January 2017 and with healthcare at 18% in May 2017. Government as the top national problem garnered even greater percentages during and after the federal government shutdown in 2013 -- receiving 33% of mentions in October and 26% of mentions in November of that year. Before 2013, this issue had not hit the 20% threshold since 1974.

Government Remains Top Issue Mentioned as Most Important Problem
Ranked by percentage of mentions; includes issues mentioned by at least 3% in May
March 2018 April 2018 May 2018
% % %
Dissatisfaction with government 22 23 20
Immigration/Illegal aliens 9 11 10
Race relations 7 7 7
Economy in general 4 5 5
Unifying the country 5 5 5
Ethics/Moral decline 4 3 5
Lack of respect for each other 3 2 5
Healthcare/Hospitals 4 4 4
Gun control/Guns 13 6 3
Unemployment/Jobs 2 4 3
Federal budget deficit/Debt 2 3 3
International issues/problems 2 3 3
Education 3 3 3

Immigration has been the second most frequently named problem for four of the past five months. One in 10 Americans (10%) name immigration as the top problem facing the U.S., which is within the 8% to 15% range for this issue thus far in 2018.

Seven percent of Americans name racism or race relations as the top U.S. problem. This issue has received 7% or 8% of all mentions each month since December 2017, though it was a bit higher in the fall -- ranging between 10% and 14% from September to November.

Guns or gun control as the top problem has returned to pre-Parkland levels. The percentage of Americans naming guns or gun control as the nation's most important problem spiked after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, rising from 1% in January to 13% in March. This issue fell back to 6% by April and is now at 3%.

The fourth-highest concern is a tie among four issues. One in 20 Americans name the economy (5%), unifying the country (5%), ethics and moral decline (5%) and interpersonal conflict in society such as lack of respect, hatred and greed (5%).

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted May 1-10, 2018, with a random sample of 1,024 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 70% cellphone respondents and 30% 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.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030