Record-Low Percentage of Americans See Economy as Top US Problem, Survey Says

By Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab
Petr Svab is a reporter covering New York. Previously, he covered national topics including politics, economy, education, and law enforcement.
September 17, 2018Updated: October 5, 2018

Just 12 percent of Americans mentioned some part of the economy as the top problem facing the United States, according to a Gallup survey conducted earlier this month. That’s down from 17 percent last month and is a record low since economic issues were first included in the poll.

The polling company has been asking the classic “most important problem” question since 1939 but only began in 1991 giving a net score for all references to economic issues—including the economy in general, unemployment and inflation.

The result marks a striking departure from past years when the economy often topped the list of Americans’ concerns. In 2009, at the height of the economic crisis, a record 86 percent picked the economy as the dominant problem. Even in the last years of the Obama administration, 30 to 40 percent of respondents deemed the economy the No. 1 problem.

The previous record-low, 13 percent, occurred before the dot-com bubble burst in 2000.

Roughly coinciding with the election of President Donald Trump, the number fell to below 20 percent and has oscillated near that mark since. The president has received credit for accelerating economic growth with his tax cuts and deregulation.

In addition, 55 percent of Americans say the economy is getting better, one of the best results since 2004. And 64 percent of Americans say it’s now a good time to find a quality job. That’s just shy of the record 67 percent reported by Gallup in May.

As Americans worry less about the economy, the issue that tops their concerns is dissatisfaction with government—nearly 29 percent. That’s not far off the record 33 percent recorded in October 2013, which coincided with a government shutdown.

That concern crosses party lines, with 38 percent of Democrats and 28 percent of Republicans picking government or poor leadership as the top problem. It’s likely, though, that each camp is concerned for different reasons since 68 percent of Republicans are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, while only 12 percent of Democrats are.

Immigration or illegal immigrants is the top concern of 12 percent of Americans. Only 5 percent focused on healthcare and just 4 percent focused on poverty, hunger, or homelessness.

The survey was conducted Sept. 4 to 12, with a random sample of 1,035 adults.

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