The good news about the recently ended year of 2014 was that, for the first time since 2007, the economy was not considered the most important problem facing the U.S., according to Gallup’s annual assessment of public sentiment. Instead, the poll found that “poor government leadership” was the biggest worry facing Americans.
The bad news is that while the economy may not have led the list, it came in a close second to the Government/Congress/Politicians category, netting 17 percent of respondents overall compared to the 18 percent in the top slot.
Overall, the range of concerns Americans reported was unusually broad. Not since 2001, the report noted, has no single issue polled at above 20 percent. Instead, in addition to government and the economy, only two categories earned 10 percent or more this year: jobs/unemployment (15 percent) and health care (10 percent).
Ironically, for all the attention lavished on illegal immigration, deficit reduction and health care by the 113th Congress, none of those issues has polled above 10 percent in the Gallup findings since 2011.
Also surprisingly, in a year that saw the rise of ISIS and renewed aggression from Russia, national security and terrorism barely made the list, clocking in at 2 percent each.
“With unemployment and gas prices falling, the U.S. not being involved in any major wars and scaling back operations in Afghanistan, and no acts of domestic terrorism occurring, the factors that have caused Americans to converge on a single pressing concern in the past simply weren't present in 2014,” Gallup found.
“Rather, as mentions of the economy and unemployment have dwindled since 2012, mentions of health care and government leadership have grown to join them, forming a set of comparably sized, moderate-level concerns that now define the public’s view of what ails the nation.”
Additionally, Gallup notes, the wide distribution of public concerns has implications for the 2016 presidential election. “Should it persist, the lack of a single defining public issue could make candidates’ task of honing a message for the election more complex.”
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