- Average 19% in 2022 name some aspect of government as biggest problem
- 16% cite inflation and 12% the economy in general, on average
- Satisfaction with direction of the U.S. averages 18%, similar to 2008 and 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the seventh year in the past decade, Americans name dissatisfaction with the government as the nation’s top problem in 2022. An average of 19% of U.S. adults have mentioned some aspect of the government as the most important problem facing the country in Gallup’s 11 measures this year. The government edges out the high cost of living or inflation (16%) and outpaces the economy in general (12%). Further down the list, immigration, unifying the country, COVID-19, race relations and crime each average 4% to 6% of mentions in 2022.
The data show significant differences in partisans’ views of the nation’s top three problems. On average, Republicans are more likely than Democrats and independents to name the government as the most pressing issue in 2022.
In addition, Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to name inflation and the economy in general, while the readings among independents fall between the two partisan groups.
Immigration is considered a top problem more so among Republicans than Democrats and independents, while the opposite is true of race relations and abortion issues.
COVID-19, Russia, Abortion, Guns Increased in Importance at Points in 2022
Despite registering relatively low annual averages, several issues have been notably higher at some points this year.
- Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases at the start of 2022, the disease was named as the nation’s top problem by 20% of U.S. adults in January and 13% in February. In both cases, it ranked behind the government. By March, as COVID-19 infections receded, it dropped off to 3% and has garnered no more than 1% of mentions for the past six months.
- After Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, Americans’ mentions of Russia as the top U.S. problem jumped from 2% to 9% in March. Although the war continues, mentions of it as the most important problem dropped to 5% in April, and it has not been named by more than 1% of Americans in the latter half of 2022.
- The U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade resulted in a record-high 8% of U.S. adults naming abortion as the top U.S. problem. While the issue faded in mentions of the most important problem in subsequent months, it has remained elevated among Democrats.
- In the wake of two mass shootings in May at a New York grocery store and a Texas elementary school, Americans’ mentions of guns as the most important problem in the country rose to 8% in June. Yet, between August and December, no more than 2% of U.S. adults named it.
Most Important Problem 2001-2022 Rankings
The government category has only been unseated from the top spot in Gallup’s list once in the past five years -- in 2020, when COVID-19 surpassed it. “The government” is a broad category of dissatisfaction with the government that includes a range of responses, such as the president himself, Congress, party politics and gridlock, to name a few.
Dissatisfaction with the government did not emerge in recent history as one of the top issues facing the nation until 2012. Since 2013 -- when the government shutdown caused mentions of the government to surge -- it has been the first or second most-cited issue each year.
Annual averages for 2008 through 2012 -- during and after the Great Recession -- show that the economy was most often named as the top problem in the U.S. and that unemployment was also a dominant issue. Between 2004 and 2007, the Iraq War was viewed as the most important problem; in the early 2000s, the economy and terrorism were named most often.
Inflation had not ranked in the top four problems facing the U.S. in more than two decades, but amid the highest inflation rate since the early 1980s, it is named as a top problem this year.
U.S. Satisfaction at Lowest Point Since 2011
Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S. has tumbled nine percentage points, to 18%, from last year’s average. The 2022 figure is the lowest point since 17% in 2011 and just the fourth time since 1979 that annual satisfaction has been below 20%. The other two times were in 1979 and 2008 -- also periods of economic turmoil in the U.S.
This year’s decline in U.S. satisfaction is largely due to a 14-point drop among Democrats, but independents’ satisfaction also has fallen by six points. Republicans’ satisfaction, already a low 8% in 2021 after President Joe Biden took office, is down to 4% in 2022.
Dissatisfaction with the government continues to exceed all other single issues as the most pressing in the U.S. in 2022. While the COVID-19 pandemic has improved throughout the year, inflation has worsened and heightened Americans’ concerns. The nation’s sharply divided political landscape and the troubled economy no doubt have affected the public’s satisfaction with the direction of the country.
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