Have American Attitudes Improved?

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In the past few weeks, we have experienced a good deal of change in this country. The inauguration of the President’s second term has also marked transitions in leadership in Washington. The avoidance (or delay) of the “fiscal cliff” has caused some optimism that cooperation in Washington will improve. The stock market continues to grow and there are even positive signs in the housing market.

So an obvious question is whether or not Americans are feeling any better about the issues facing them and our country? According to a recent Gallup poll, the answer is generally, “no.”

Between January 7-10, 2013, Gallup conducted a poll including a random sample of 1,011 adults in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Interviews were conducted by phone (landline and cell) in both English and Spanish. Respondents were asked to express their degree of satisfaction about the “state of the nation” in 17 different areas.  In issuing the results, Gallup also provided a comparison of this recent poll with the results from January 3-5, 2005, the start of George Bush’s second term.

Americans are most satisfied with:

- “The nation’s military strength and preparedness” (74%)

- “The nation’s security from terrorism” (67%)

- “The quality of the environment in the nation” (57%)

- “The state of race relations” (50%)

These were the only areas in which half or more of the respondents expressed satisfaction.

Americans were least satisfied with:

- “The state of the nation’s economy” (20%)

- “The nation’s efforts to deal with poverty and homelessness” (25%)

- “The amount Americans pay in federal taxes” (36%)

-“The level of immigration into the country today” (36%)

-“The nation’s energy policy” (37%)

All other areas received satisfaction scores between 40-50%.

It is interesting to note that since 2005, there have been some significant changes in attitude.  Americans now express significantly higher satisfaction with:

 -“The acceptance of homosexuality in the nation” (+17% from 32% to 49%)

 - “The availability of affordable healthcare” (+15% from 25% to 40%)

 - “The Social Security and Medicare Systems” (+12% from 31% to 43%)

Americans are generally more satisfied today with military (+8%) and anti-terrorism efforts (+9%).

The economy is clearly the area of greatest dissatisfaction.  In fact, since 2005, satisfaction has dropped 27% from 47% to 20%. The other area where satisfaction has dropped significantly is crime (a drop of 8%).

Several things about this poll are interesting to me.  Americans feel better about the military and national security although that was a clear focus and priority of President Bush.  More interesting, I wonder why people are so dissatisfied with the economy and so satisfied with aspects of the economy that are the greatest problems (e.g., entitlement programs, health care).

Finally, and I admit this is a bit parochial, I wonder why Gallup didn’t include questions about higher education! 

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

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Guest Tuesday, 29 July 2014