Wednesday, 7 May 2014

What are the biggest problems for the US government to work on in 2014?

The National Opinion Research Centre, in conjunction with the Associated Press, recently published the results of an opinion poll on problems facing the United States. (Thanks to Simon Wan for drawing my attention to the poll.) Approximately 1,400 American adults were interviewed in December of 2013. The first question they were asked was, "Generally speaking, would you say things in this country are heading in the right direction or the wrong direction?". 63% of respondents answered "wrong direction". This group presumably comprises some people who feel the Obama administration has been doing too much as well as some who feel it has not been doing enough.

The second question respondents were asked was, "Thinking about the problems facing the United States and the world today, which problems would you like the government to be working on in 2014?" Respondents were able to list up to ten specific problems. The first chart displays the proportion of respondents mentioning each of the ten most-mentioned problems. "Healthcare" was the most-mentioned problem of all, having been cited by 52% of respondents. "Unemployment" and the "Economy" were the next most-mentioned problems, having been cited by 42% and 39% of respondents, respectively.

The second chart displays the proportion of respondents mentioning ten other problems, each of which was mentioned by surprisingly few respondents (in my opinion). Only 6% of respondents cited "Terrorism", only 5% cited "Smaller government", only 5% cited "Income inequality", only 3% cited "NSA spying", and only 1% cited "Money in politics". These results suggest that neither the Occupy Wall Street movement, with its emphasis on big corporations and income inequality, nor the Tea Party movement, with its emphasis on cronyism and smaller government, is particularly representative of the American people. However, it could be argued that the relatively large number of respondents citing "Healthcare", "Debt and deficit" and "Immigration" implies that the Tea Party is at least somewhat representative.

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