Gallup: Record 27% in 2019 Said Government is America’s ‘Most Important Problem’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 2, 2020 | 5:02pm EST
(Gettty Images/Ron Sachs-Pool)
(Gettty Images/Ron Sachs-Pool)

( - A record 27 percent of Americans told Gallup in 2019 that they believed government is “the most important problem facing this country today,” according to an analysis and data published by the polling firm.

“The 27% of Americans who name the government as the top challenge this year exceeds the average of 22% in 2018 and is the highest annual average for the problem in Gallup records,” said the analysis.

Over the course of the year, Gallup asks survey respondents this open-ended question: “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?”

“Gallup has tracked Americans' views of the nation's most important problems since 1939,” the organization says.

In the 19 years since 2001, according to a chart published by Gallup last week, only four things have ended up with the highest annual average in Gallup’s surveys as “the most important problem” facing the United States that year. Those things are the “economy,” “terrorism,” “Iraq,” and “government.”

From 2008 forward, only “government” and the “economy” have had the highest annual average in Gallup surveys as the “most important problem.”

In five of the last six years, government has beat the economy as the nation’s “most important problem.” 2016 was the last year when the economy outranked government for the percentage of people saying it was the most important problem.


In 2001, according to Gallup's chart, Gallup surveys indicated the “economy” was the most important (14 percent), while terrorism (10 percent) placed second.

In 2002, terrorism ranked first (24 percent) and the economy ranked second (22 percent). In 2003, the economy ranked first again (27 percent) and Iraq ranked second (26 percent).

Over the next four years—2004 through 2007—Iraq ranked first (with those citing it as such ranging from 22 percent to 33 percent).

Then, in the six years from 2008 through 2013, the economy again was ranked first (with those citing it ranging from 22 percent to 40 percent).

In the last three years, when government has ranked first as the most important problem facing the country, the percent of respondents taking that position has grown from 20 percent in 2017 to 22 percent in 2018 to 27 percent in 2019.

In the last two years, immigration has ranked second as the nation’s most important problem. In 2018, 14 percent said immigration was the most important problem. In 2019, 18 percent said that was the case.

Gallup summarizes its methodology for this survey as follows:

“Results for this Gallup trend are based on combined data from telephone surveys with at least 1,000 national adults per month, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the annual averages of roughly 12,000 national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.”


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