Americans See Unemployment as No. 1 Problem

January 18, 2011

gallup-key-us-problems-trend-line-jan11.gifAmericans say unemployment is the number one problem facing the US at the start of 2011, with 29% naming it in a new Gallup poll. This is a roughly 20% increase from the 24% who mentioned unemployment in December 2010, although the figure ranged from 28% to 33% from August to November.

In contrast, mentions of “the economy” in general as the leading problem have been trending downward since October 2010, and the current 26% reading is the lowest since also reading 26% in May 2010.

At the same time, focus on the federal deficit has been edging up. Although similar to the rate mentioning it in February 2010, the 12% of Americans citing the deficit this month is numerically the highest Gallup has recorded in at least a decade.

2 in 3 Americans Cite Economic Issue

gallup-top-mentioned-problems-jan11.gifThe latest update to the Gallup poll on the most important problems facing the US, conducted Jan. 7-9, 2011, finds 68% of Americans naming at least one economic issue and 50% naming at least one non-economic issue as the top problem.

The leading economic problems named this month are unemployment, the economy, and the federal deficit/debt, followed by lack of money (4%), fuel prices (3%), and taxes (2%). Despite the rising cost of gas in recent months, with average US pump prices in December exceeding $3 per gallon for the first time since October 2008, public mentions of fuel prices have yet to increase significantly. Gallup advises this trend bears watching in 2011, as mentions of gas prices as the top problem rose to 25% in June 2008, when pump prices exceeded $4.

Healthcare, Govt. Leading Non-economic Issues

The top non-economic issue this month is healthcare, but the 13% naming it is half the peak level seen in 2009 prior to passage of President Obama’s healthcare reform plan. Dissatisfaction with government, including mentions of corruption and poor leadership by the Congress and the president, is mentioned by 11%. Fewer name immigration (6%) or war in general (5%).

In some cases, regional differences are greater than partisan ones. This is especially evident for immigration, which 10% of Americans living in the West cite as the top problem, compared with 3% in the East, 4% in the South, and 6% in the Midwest.

Unemployment, Deficit Grow as Perceived Problems

Gallup data suggests Americans continue to view the economy as one of the nation’s leading problems, but they put slightly less emphasis on it today than they did last fall. At the same time, the percentage of Americans citing unemployment has remained high and the percentage citing the federal budget deficit has expanded.

Economy Leading News Item of 2010

The number one US news story of 2010 was the weakened economy, according to News Coverage Index data from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Economic news accounted for between 13% and 17% of the overall coverage studied in every quarter of 2010, and 14% overall.

About the Data: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 7-9, 2011, with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental US, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

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