Gallup: Americans More Concerned About Debt and Government Than Guns/Gun Control

By Susan Jones | January 15, 2013 | 6:06 AM EST

The Outstanding Public Debt as of 15 Jan 2013 is around $16.4 Trillion. The U.S. Treasury Department is shown in this AP photo.

( - What is the most important problem facing the nation today? For the first time since 2009, unemployment has dropped out of the top two spots in Gallup's tracking poll, replaced by concerns about the economy in general and the federal budget deficit in particular.

The economy and unemployment had ranked as the top two concerns each month since December 2009.

In third place on January's "most important problem list" is dissatisfaction with government, followed by unemployment.

Only four percent of Americans named guns and gun control as the nation's top problem, the same as in last month's survey, which followed the mass shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Four percent also mentioned taxes this month, the highest percentage in over two years. And ranking above taxes and gun control was "lack of money."

The "most important problem" responses include the following:

Economy in general                     (21%)
Federal budget deficit                  (20%)
Dissatisfaction with government  (18%)
Unemployment                         (16%)
Lack of money                          (5%)
Taxes                                       (4%)
Guns/gun control                     (4%)
Ethics                                       (4%)
Poor healthcare                        (4%)
Immigration                              (3%)
Education                                 (2%)
Judicial system                         (2%)
Crime/violence                          (2%)
Foreign aid                               (2%)
Lack of respect for each other  (2%)

According to Gallup, 30 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said the federal budget deficit is the most important problem facing the nation, compared with 12 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

Democrats were more likely than Republicans to mention dissatisfaction with government, and they were slightly more likely to mention unemployment.

The bottom line, according to Gallup: The percentage of Americans naming the federal deficit and the way government operates as the top problems facing the country are higher now than they have been since the 1990s and the 1970s, respectively. The percentages mentioning the economy and unemployment, on the other hand, are lower than they have been in several years. These results suggest that average Americans are generally shifting their focus -- from worry about macroeconomic problems to worry about issues associated with the way government works.

Gallup said its polling provides clear evidence that Americans' concern about the debt and the way government operates is increasing.

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 7-10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,011 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, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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