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Americans Say Economy Is "Most Important Thing Going Well"

Americans Say Economy Is "Most Important Thing Going Well"

Story Highlights

  • Nearly four in 10 cite economy or jobs as nation's biggest positive
  • Social awareness ranks second, fueled by Democrats and Democratic leaners
  • Economic optimism at 14-year high in Gallup monthly poll series

WASHINGTON, D.C -- The economy is Americans' top response when asked to name the "most important thing going well" in the U.S. today, showing the flip side of Gallup's list of the "most important problems" facing the nation. Economic factors are cited by 37% of Americans as what is going most well. The social climate, including social awareness, civic activism and the "resistance" movement, is the next-largest category of responses, at 17%, followed by the 12% saying "nothing" or "not much" is going well.

Economy Tops Americans' List of What's Right in the U.S.
What do you think is the most important thing going well in this country today? (open-ended)
U.S. adults
Summary categories
The economy/Low unemployment 37
Social climate/Civic participation/Resistance 17
Nothing is going well/Not much 12
National conditions (freedoms, education, no war, low crime, etc.) 11
Government leadership/policy (Trump, military, border control, tax cuts, etc.) 10
Other 6
No opinion 7
Based on first mentions; see table at end for detailed responses by category
Gallup, July 1-11, 2018

Eleven percent of Americans cite a specific aspect of national conditions, such as freedoms, education, lack of war or reduced crime as the most important thing going well in the country today. One in 10 mention a specific aspect of government, including their belief that President Donald Trump is doing a good job (mentioned by 4%) and various government policies, such as the military, border control, deregulation and tax cuts.

The full list of issues associated with each category of responses is shown at the end of this report.

These findings are from a Gallup poll conducted July 1-11. The question was asked in order to shed light on why Americans' broad satisfaction with the direction of the country has increased in recent months into the mid- to high 30s. While consistent with the historical average for this question since its inception in 1979 (37%), the 35% to 38% satisfied each month since May is well above the average 27% found in 2017 and is the most positive sustained level of U.S. satisfaction since mid-2009, the first year of Barack Obama's presidency.

Line graph: Americans' satisfaction with how things are going in U.S., 2009-2018 trend. 35% satisfied (Jul 2018); low of 9% (Oct 2008).

U.S. Economic Confidence Also Fairly Strong

According to the poll, 55% of Americans believe U.S. economic conditions are excellent or good, and the same percentage perceive the economy to be improving.

The average net-positive score from these two questions (+30) ties with last month's result as the highest level of economic optimism Gallup has recorded in its Gallup Poll Social Series (GPSS) surveys since January 2004, when it briefly hit +33. The last time economic confidence stayed at this level for two or more consecutive months was in the fall of 2000.

Line graph: Americans' confidence in current economic conditions, economic outlook. Economic Confidence Index at +30 (Jul 2018).

Gallup tracked Americans' economic confidence monthly using its GPSS surveys from October 2000 through December 2008, and then annually each April from 2009 through 2017. In January 2018, the questions were reinstated as a monthly feature of the GPSS series. Gallup had measured economic confidence on its daily tracking poll from 2008 through 2017, though those results did not always match the GPSS results, likely because of differences in survey context.

Partisanship Colors Economic Views, Satisfaction

With the Republican Party at the helm in Washington, D.C., as well as in the majority of state houses, Republicans have a much rosier view than Democrats of how things are going in the country.

Perceptions among Republicans and independents who lean Republican of the most important thing going well are dominated by the economy, with 53% mentioning something in this category. Meanwhile, only half as many Democrats and Democratic leaners agree, while about as many think the social climate (including civic involvement and the resistance movement) is what's best. Further, far more Democrats than Republicans, 18% versus 4%, say nothing is going well in the country.

Partisan differences are even starker with respect to U.S. satisfaction, as 68% of Republicans versus just 9% of Democrats say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the country. Roughly eight in 10 Republicans versus about a third of Democrats rate the economy positively on each of the two economic dimensions.

Republicans Positive About the Economy, While Democrats More Subdued
Republicans/Lean Republican Democrats/Lean Democratic
% %
Most important thing going well^
Economy 53 26
Social climate/Civic involvement 10 26
Nothing 4 18
National conditions 8 12
Government policies 17 4
Other 3 8
No opinion 6 7
U.S. satisfaction
Satisfied 68 9
Dissatisfied 31 89
Current U.S. economic conditions
Excellent/Good 78 36
Only fair 19 45
Poor 3 19
Direction of U.S. economy
Getting better 85 33
Getting worse 11 60
^ Based on first mentions to open-ended question
Gallup, July 1-11, 2018

Bottom Line

The economy is not an obvious problem in the minds of Americans right now, and is in fact what many consider the best thing going well in the country. This may go a long way toward explaining why U.S. satisfaction has recovered from the more negative levels of the past decade.

Still, the data tell the familiar tale of two Americas.

Republicans and those who lean toward the president's party feel highly positive about national economic conditions and identify the economy as a starring success, while Democrats and Democratic leaners feel more ho-hum about it.

With Democrats more focused on complaints about national leadership and various public policy concerns as the nation's top problem, they are more likely to see public awareness and activism -- presumably against the Republican administration -- as the best thing going on, or to see nothing good at all.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 1-11, 2018, with a random sample of 1,033 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.

Summary of Things Americans Say Are Going Well in the U.S.
What do you think is the most important thing going well in this country today? (open-ended)
U.S. adults
Economy (37%)
Economy (general) 23
Employment/Jobs/Wages 13
Stock market/Retirement accounts 1
Foreign trade/Balance *
Social climate/Civic participation (17%)
Social awareness/People engaged in politics/Civic participation 7
People are coming together/Less divisive 5
The resistance/Activism/Protests 2
Ethics/Morality/Religious influence 1
Less racism/Diversity/Equality 1
More respect for each other/Civility 1
Nothing (12%)
Nothing 12
Not much *
National conditions (11%)
Freedoms (general) 2
Education 2
Peace/Not at war 1
Better than it was/Going well (general) 1
Crime rate down/Law enforcement/Gun control 1
Science/Technology 1
Entrepreneurship/Innovation 1
Less poverty/hunger/homelessness 1
Healthcare *
The media *
Democracy/Belief in the Constitution *
Less terrorism *
Beautiful place to live/It is the United States/Patriotism *
Environment *
Government leadership/policy (10%)
Trump doing good job 4
National security/Military/Defense 2
Foreign affairs 1
Immigration/Control of borders 1
Deregulation/Less government involvement/Capitalism 1
Tax cuts *
Supreme Court/court system *
Federal budget/Federal debt *
Other 6
No opinion 7
Based on first mentions; * Less than 0.5%
Gallup, July 1-11, 2018

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