A summary of polling results suggests that Americans now believe “government” is their foremost problem.
Let’s consider why we might hold that view:
“Americans continue to name the government (18%) as the most important U.S. problem, a distinction it has had for the past four months. Americans’ mentions of the economy as the top problem (11%) dropped this month, leaving it tied with jobs (10%) for second place.” Justin McCarthy, Gallup
This polling result is so surprising, the explanation promises to be interesting. Looking at the graph one sees that reported dissatisfaction hasn’t changed much, but concern for the economy has markedly declined. How different the impression would be if the poll results had been titled:
“Concern for the economy declines by 50% in six months.”
Then looking at the question asked goes a long way to explaining the result.
4. What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? [OPEN-ENDED]
As reported the most popular choice has to do with government, but that is only part of the story. The response was categorized as:
Dissatisfaction with government/Congress/politicians; Poor leadership/Corruption/Abuse of power.
One can’t tell if respondents were dissatisfied with Congress and politicians, with corruption and abuse of power, or with some other aspect of government. Had this question been split up, other issues might have been the more popular choices such as these runners-up:
- Immigration/Illegal aliens
- Poor healthcare/hospitals
- High cost of healthcare
- Education/Poor education/Access to education
As Gallup noted, sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
This poll is interesting, but not necessarily for the reason given in the summary. Read carefully before drawing conclusions from reported poll results.
© William Hungerford – March 2015