Story Highlights

  • 8% name economy as top problem, the lowest in over nine years
  • Dissatisfaction with government, leadership remains top problem

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are now less likely than at any point since 2007 to name the economy in general (8%) as the most important problem facing the nation. The percentage of Americans naming the economy as the nation's top problem has gradually declined since 2009, and more recently has dropped slightly each month since October 2016.

Graph 1

The drop in the percentage mentioning the economy comes at a time when Americans' confidence in the economy and their perceptions of hiring activity are at nine-year highs. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average has remained above its new milestone of 20,000 for over a month.

These data, collected in a March 1-5 Gallup poll, are part of a longer trend of Americans expressing less concern for economic issues at large -- including the economy in general, unemployment and federal debt -- and greater concern for noneconomic issues such as immigration, healthcare and racism.

In the latest poll, about one in four Americans (26%) name an economic issue as being the most important problem facing the U.S., while three times as many (75%) list a noneconomic issue. From 2008 to 2012, economic concerns mostly exceeded noneconomic ones.

Graph 2

Dissatisfaction With Government Remains No. 1 Problem

Almost one in five Americans (18%) name dissatisfaction with government or poor leadership as the nation's greatest problem. This is similar to the 19% recorded last month, when it ranked as the top overall problem by a significant margin for the first time since April 2015. Concerns about government rose once Donald Trump took office; many Americans who cite government dissatisfaction as the most important problem mention Trump specifically.

Another issue that has risen recently as a top problem for Americans is immigration; 12% list immigration and illegal immigrants as the greatest problem facing the U.S. This is similar to last month's 13%, which was the highest figure recorded for this issue since November 2014 and most likely reflects President Trump's emphasis on executive orders and actions relating to immigration during his first month in office.

After government dissatisfaction and immigration, the most commonly mentioned issues are unemployment, the economy in general, healthcare, unifying the country, race relations and education.

What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? [Open-ended]
Issues mentioned by 3% or more of respondents in March
% Mentioning
Dissatisfaction with government/Poor leadership 18
Immigration/Illegal aliens 12
Unemployment/Jobs 9
Economy in general 8
Healthcare 7
Unifying the country 6
Race relations/Racism 6
Education 5
Federal budget deficit/Federal debt 4
National security 4
Judicial system/Courts/Laws 4
Terrorism 3
Lack of respect for each other 3
Environment/Pollution 3
Ethics/Moral/Religious/Family decline 3
International issues or problems 3
Gallup, March 1-5, 2017

Bottom Line

Mentions of the economy in general as the most important problem in the U.S. have gradually declined since 2009 -- and have rarely been as low as they are now. This aligns with Americans' upbeat perceptions of the economy's health and of hiring activity at their own places of employment.

Trump's efforts during his first weeks in office have focused largely on noneconomic issues, including immigration, healthcare and national security. Americans have also trained their focus on these issues, but their concerns about government and leadership have spiked as well.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 1-5, 2017, with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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