- 21% are satisfied, up from 17% in August and 13% in July
- Democrats, independents now more likely to say they are satisfied
- Government, inflation are named as most important U.S. problems
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After Americans' satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. dipped to near-historical lows in June and July as gas prices soared, it has now returned to where it was in April. Currently, 21% of U.S. adults say they are satisfied, an increase from 13% in both June and July.
The Sept. 1-16 poll finds 79% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going, after more than eight in 10 were dissatisfied each month between May and August.
The recent improvement in satisfaction has occurred among both Democrats and independents, with no meaningful change among Republicans. Compared with June and July, when an average of 20% of Democrats were satisfied, 31% of Democrats now say they are satisfied. Among independents, the increase has been about as large, from 14% to 24%. Four percent of Republicans were satisfied in June and July, on average, compared with 6% in September.
Even with the recent brightening of Americans' national outlook, satisfaction has averaged 18% so far this year, putting it on pace to rank among the lowest yearly averages along with 1979 (19%), 2008 (15%) and 2011 (17%). The historical average satisfaction rating since Gallup first asked the question in 1979 is 36%, although it has averaged significantly less than that, 25%, since 2006.
Government, Inflation Rank as Top U.S. Problems
As satisfaction levels have improved since July, Americans' perceptions of the most important problems facing the U.S. have been relatively stable. Three issues -- the government, inflation and the economy in general -- have been the top issues named each month since March, with roughly similar percentages of Americans naming them in those months.
Currently, 22% of Americans name the government as the most important problem, while 17% say inflation is. Twelve percent mention the economy in general terms, the only other issue to be cited by at least 10% of Americans in response to the open-ended question.
Beyond those issues, between 4% and 6% of Americans name immigration, race relations or racism, unifying the country, abortion, elections, election reform or democracy, poverty, or crime as the most important problem.
Three percent of Americans mention gas prices specifically, similar to the June and July figures of 5%, but much lower than in 2008, when gas prices reached their prior record high. In June 2008, 25% of Americans said gas prices were the most important problem, second only to general mentions of the economy that month. At that time, 6% of Americans mentioned inflation. This year, Americans may see higher gas prices as part of inflation more broadly, rather than as a separate issue.
In recent years, Americans have become more likely to cite the government as the most important U.S. problem. To a large degree, people may see the government's inability to successfully deal with matters such as inflation, high gas prices, COVID-19 or the major issue of the day as the problem, rather than those issues specifically.
In contrast to the situation today, in June 2008, just 6% of Americans named the government as the most important problem, while, as noted, 25% said gas prices were, and 36% said the economy was. Lower mentions of government as the most important problem occurred even as then-President George W. Bush had a 30% job approval rating, significantly worse than Joe Biden's current 42% approval rating.
Democrats, Republicans Agree That Government Is the Top Problem
The government is the most commonly named issue among Republicans (28%) and Democrats (23%), while it ties with inflation as the top issue among independents. Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to cite inflation as the most important problem, 22% to 9%.
Republicans are also more inclined to see immigration as the most important problem, with 13% naming it. Meanwhile, 12% of Democrats name election reform or democracy and 9% abortion.
A follow-up question in the survey asked Americans which political party can do a better job of handling the problem they think is most important. Forty-eight percent of Americans say the Republican Party can do a better job, compared with 37% who say the Democratic Party, while 15% do not see either party as better. Last year, Republicans had a narrower 41% to 38% advantage on this measure.
More than eight in 10 Republicans (88%) and Democrats (82%) rate their own party as better able to handle their top issue. Democrats (11%) are slightly more likely than Republicans (4%) to say the opposing party can better handle the issue. For their part, independents are more likely to place their trust in the Republican Party (42%) than the Democratic Party (32%).
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