Gallup released monthly polling results to questions about Americans’ views of our nation’s health. When asked the question “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?,” 18 percent of Americans listed dissatisfaction with government, 11 percent said the economy in general, and 10 percent listed unemployment and jobs. Foreign policy issues like terrorism, national security, ISIS/Iraq, and foreign policy also ranked in the top 10 issues -signaling that terrorism concerns are also high priority issues.
Polling indicates Americans are also concerned with the direction our nation is going in. Some two-thirds of Americans continue to be dissatisfied with where we are going. While dissatisfaction is not a new problem, the sustained low levels of satisfaction hovering in the 20 – 30 percent range since President Barack Obama took office compared to his two predecessors indicates that while the president may still be personally popular, Americans still don’t think he’s doing a good enough job.
The Washington Post reports:
The steady frustration with government is traceable in Gallup's surveys back to 2013. There was a steady upward trend from about the time President Obama took office, reaching in 2013 the level it's generally at now. The data for 2008 to 2013 is from March of each year for the sake of consistency; in October 2013, during the shutdown, frustration with government peaked at 33 percent.
As concern about the economy has plummeted following the recession, the steady frustration with government continues to float on top.
It's worth noting that "dissatisfaction with government" is not equivalent to "dislike of big government" or "opposition to government programs." As articulated in 2010, it encompasses those sentiments, but also dissatisfaction with politicians, poor leadership, corruption and abuse of power.
And President Obama is not the only one who is responsible. Congress and the courts play a role in contributing to our unhappiness about government, as does the hefty public sector octopus.
Other data indicate record low confidence in all three branches of government. According to the 2014 General Social Survey, only 23 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court, 11 percent in the executive branch, and 5 percent in Congress. Some 44 percent of Americans say they have hardly any confidence at all in the President, and that is at a record high. Overall, 2 in 10 Americans say they have hardly any confidence in the courts, also a record high.
The question is what can our government do to improve its standing with Americans? The two political parties are so far apart that it is almost inevitable that Washington becomes a place of bitter contests. It might help if legislators learned to behave better towards those with whom they disagree.
But the dissatisfaction with government might be a reflection of the way things have been going, especially economically, in the country. Government has done a lot to contribute to our economic stagnation. For example, when we consider government regulations that stifle new industries, we feel intuitively that lawmakers have forgotten the benefits that innovation delivers to many consumers. It is particularly hard for new businesses and industries to launch because of the red tape that the government requires.
Americans want more effective and efficient government, but when promises of change and hope deliver nothing but harmful policies created by bypassing constitutional processes such as a President Obama rulings by pen on everything from immigration to minimum wages, it’s no wonder government is our biggest concern.