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U.S. Satisfaction Improved After Recent Decline

U.S. Satisfaction Improved After Recent Decline

Story Highlights

  • 27% of U.S. adults are satisfied, up from 11% in January
  • Satisfaction among Democrats surges 40 percentage points
  • COVID-19 surpasses the government as most important problem

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Twenty-seven percent of U.S. adults are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S, more than double the percentage observed in January. The increase reverses a three-month decline that saw satisfaction drop to one of its lowest levels ever.


Line graph. Recent trend on Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. Twenty-seven percent are currently satisfied, up from 11% in January. Satisfaction had declined since hitting 28% in October before the election. It remains below where it was before the coronavirus pandemic, including a recent high of 45% in February 2020.

Satisfaction, which had been 28% at the time of the 2020 presidential election, fell in the ensuing months as U.S. coronavirus infections surged and then-President Donald Trump and his allies disputed Joe Biden's victory, culminating in the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill. The 11% satisfied in January was four percentage points above the all-time low registered in October 2008 during the financial crisis.

The national mood took some twists and turns in 2020, peaking at 45% satisfied in February -- the highest since 2005 -- as Trump was acquitted in his first impeachment trial, and the economy was strong. As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S., and after George Floyd's death at the hands of police, the percentage satisfied fell into the teens and stayed there for much of the summer and early fall.

Democrats are leading the resurgence in national satisfaction seen in the Feb. 3-18 poll. Currently, 45% of Democrats are satisfied, up 40 points from January. Independents show a smaller increase in satisfaction, from 14% to 27%. Fewer Republicans are satisfied now (6%) than were in January (14%).

US SAT_Trend

Line graph. Recent Trend in U.S. Satisfaction by Party Identification.

These partisan shifts in satisfaction likely reflect reactions to the Washington power structure change, with Democrats now controlling the presidency as well as both houses of Congress. Gallup has seen similar shifts when the presidency changed from one party to the other, including in 2017, 2009, and after all prior presidential transitions since Gallup first asked the satisfaction question in 1979.

Coronavirus Displaces Government as Most Important Problem

This month, a slightly higher percentage of Americans name the coronavirus pandemic as the most important problem facing the country, 26%, than did so last month (22%). Meanwhile, there has been a larger decline in mentions of the government in response to the open-ended question, dropping to 19% from 29%. As a result of these shifts, the coronavirus once again ranks as the top problem facing the nation, according to Americans.

Ten percent of U.S. adults name race relations or racism, continuing the elevated concern about the issue since the Floyd incident.

Eight percent of Americans cite unifying the country as the top problem, down from the all-time high of 12% for the issue in January.

Mentions of the economy are up -- 16% name some economic issue, increasing from 9% in January. Currently, 8% say the economy in general terms is the top problem -- up from 2% last month -- and 5% cite unemployment.

Most Important Problem, Recent Trend
What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?
Nov. 2020 Dec. 2020 Jan. 2021 Feb. 2021
% % % %
Coronavirus/Diseases 28 33 22 26
The government/Poor leadership 22 20 29 19
Race relations/Racism 10 8 10 10
Economy in general 6 4 2 8
Unifying the country 6 5 12 8
Unemployment/Jobs 2 3 3 5
Ethics/Moral/Religious/Family decline 3 4 4 4
Immigration 2 2 1 3
Environment/Pollution/Climate change 3 2 2 3
Lack of respect for each other 2 5 4 3
Judicial system/Courts/Laws 2 2 1 2
Healthcare 3 4 2 2
Federal budget deficit/Federal debt 1 1 1 2
The media 2 2 2 2
Crime/Violence 1 1 2 2
Issues named by 2% or more of respondents in February

The declines in mentions of the government as the most important problem are seen among all party groups, but the drop is greatest among Democrats -- 15 points -- compared with nine points among independents and six points among Republicans.

Democrats and independents are more likely to cite COVID-19 than they were last month, while Republicans are less likely to do so. Republicans have expressed far less concern about COVID during the pandemic, and now 8% do, compared with 43% of Democrats.

The economy ranks higher among all party groups this month than last month, but more so among Republicans and independents than Democrats.

Changes in Mentions of Most Important Problem, January to February, by Political Party
Republicans Independents Democrats
Jan. 2021 Feb. 2021 Jan. 2021 Feb. 2021 Jan. 2021 Feb. 2021
Coronavirus 14 8 18 24 32 43
The government 37 31 26 17 28 13
The economy in general 2 11 2 10 1 5

The increase in Republican mentions of the economy as the most important problem comes as their views of it have shifted from mostly positive under Trump to mostly negative under Biden.

Bottom Line

After falling to near-record lows last month, Americans' national mood improved in February. Democrats' outlook has brightened the most, while independents are also more upbeat. Republicans, however, are now less satisfied, perhaps settling into a low level of satisfaction that will persist for at least the next four years, given similarly low levels of satisfaction from Democrats during the Trump administration and Republicans throughout the Barack Obama administration.

The coronavirus is uppermost in Americans' minds as the top problem facing the country at a time when new infections have been on the decline, but delays have plagued the rollout of vaccines. The economy, which had not been a major concern last year, has ticked up this month, and the 16% mentioning an economic issue this month is the highest Gallup has recorded since June.

The Biden administration is attempting to address both the coronavirus and the economy with the proposed $1.9 trillion relief bill that the House is looking to pass as early as this week.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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