- Nearly one in five adults cite aspect of government as top U.S. problem
- Guns and crime rank fifth and sixth in April, but both are up sharply from March
- Current mentions of guns and crime similar to after past mass shootings
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More Americans continue to name government leadership than any other issue as the most important problem facing the country, with various aspects of U.S. leadership mentioned by 18% of adults in April. The economy in general ranks second, at 14%, while all other problems are cited by less than 10%. These include the high cost of living or inflation (9%), immigration (8%) and guns or gun control (7%).
Crime or violence, lack of unity in the country, race relations or racism, poverty, and ethical/moral/religious/family decline round out the top 10, each mentioned by at least 3% of adults.
Uptick in Perceptions of Guns and Crime/Violence as Top Problem
The latest poll was conducted April 3-25, shortly after a gunman took the lives of six people, including three children, at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee, in late March. The survey dates also encompass one day, April 10, on which seven shootings involving multiple victims (often called mass shootings) occurred in the U.S., the most in a single day thus far in 2023. Then a string of incidents occurred involving citizens shooting people mistakenly entering their car or property.
Likely reflecting these events, the percentages of Americans citing guns or lack of gun control (7%) and crime or violence (6%) as the top problem are the highest Gallup has recorded since last June. These are up from 1% and 3%, respectively, in March.
Both figures are on the high end of the range seen in recent years, with mentions of guns, in particular, typically spiking after high-profile mass shootings. Key among these were a Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February 2018; a shooting in which 23 people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in August 2019; and shootings at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting as well as a Buffalo, New York, supermarket in May 2022.
Democrats are responsible for most of the recent increase in overall public mentions of guns and crime or violence.
- The percentage of Democrats citing guns rose from 3% in March to 18% in April. At the same time, Republicans’ concern held steady at about 1%, and independents’ rose only slightly, from 1% to 4%.
- Democrats’ mentions of crime or violence nearly doubled from 5% in March to 11% in April. By contrast, Republicans’ and independents’ views were steady, with Republicans holding at 4%-5% and independents at 2%-4%.
Mentions of Government Steady
Meanwhile, there has been no change in the “government” category of responses. This grouping, which includes criticisms of Congress, the sitting president, the political parties, political divisiveness and political inaction, among others, has consistently ranked at or near the top of Gallup’s Most Important Problem list for more than a decade, and that showed no sign of abating in April. The 18% citing governmental issues is essentially unchanged from the 20% doing so in March and matches the average for the past year.
The other leading noneconomic problem mentioned in April, immigration, was cited by 8%, down slightly from 10% to 11% readings in the first quarter.
And, even as Americans’ confidence in the economy dipped in April, mentions of the economy per se were fairly flat, at 14%, similar to 12% in March. Further, net mentions of economic issues as the most important problem (the percentage naming at least one economic issue) dipped four points to 29%, the lowest since January 2022.
U.S. Satisfaction Sinks to 16% as Democrats’ Mood Sours
Democrats’ heightened concern about gun violence may at least partly explain the slight decline in this party group’s overall satisfaction with the direction of the country in April, slipping five points since March to 29%. This is the lowest rate of Democratic satisfaction with the nation’s direction since last summer.
At the same time, independents’ satisfaction (16%) was essentially unchanged from March, albeit at one of the lower levels seen in recent months for that group, while Republicans’ satisfaction (4%) remains in the single digits.
These small shifts by party resulted in a slight decline in Americans’ already low satisfaction with the direction of the country, dipping to 16% in April, down from 19% in March.
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