Evaluating Polling Results–Are we dissatisfied with our Government?

satisfaction pollIn addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls–Gallup

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
  • Terrorism
  • 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





Click to access forecasting-with-nonrepresentative-polls.pdf






About whungerford

* Contributor at NewNY23rd.com where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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2 Responses to Evaluating Polling Results–Are we dissatisfied with our Government?

  1. josephurban says:

    Since the 1980 election the US population has had it pounded into them that government is no good. This was the plan all along. The GOP does just about everything it can to destroy good government, then clamors that government is ineffective.

    Keep in mind that the median age in the US is about 36. That means half the population has been brought up in the anti-government propaganda era. They do not understand the battles for civil rights, worker’s rights, minimum wage, working conditions, women’s rights, abortion rights,Social Security, Disability rights, free public education, the EPA, Medicare, etc. They just assume that all these rights will be there. They don’t understand that every generation must re-fight these battles.

    So,ask yourself. Who benefits from a weak government? Is it workers? The poor? the honest? The taxpayer?
    Or the corrupt? The dishonest? The polluters? Those who don’t want to obey labor and environmental laws?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Robert Kriegar says:

    Anti-government propaganda is the direct result of misconduct by government-from Henry Kissinger, through Iran-Contra, and everything before and after them. MKUltra, Tuskegee, etc. When the government has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted, and cannot be controlled, increasing anti-government “propaganda” will ensue. And the demonstrations and histrionics of politicians today do not bode for its’ improvement. The bigger asses they make f themselves, the bigger the foothold is for government dissatisfaction, and the weakening of government. And then in come the hate mongers.


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