The survey, which was conducted from Aug. 7-10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, found that 18 percent of 1,032 U.S. adults aged 18 and older believe out-of-control government is the biggest problem facing the country.
Next, 15 percent of survey respondents say immigration is the top problem facing the U.S., while 14 percent say it’s the economy in general and 12 percent say it’s unemployment.
Mentions of the economy and the government have been steady all throughout 2014, according to the report, with mentions of immigration rising sharply in July, an obvious response to the growing crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The government's failure to act on immigration before the recess likely angered Americans who say immigration is the most important issue, and may be one reason mentions of immigration are elevated for a second month,” Gallup reported.
“Twelve percent mention jobs or unemployment as the top problem, down from earlier this year. As 2014 began, jobs, the economy in general, dissatisfaction with government, and healthcare were the problems Americans mentioned most often. But last month, mentions of immigration surged 12 percentage points while slightly fewer Americans cited jobs, government, and healthcare,” the report added.
Further, the ongoing crises in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria have likely increased U.S. foreign policy’s standing on the list of things that worry Americans, pushing it to 7 percent in August, up from 3 percent in July.
“While the percentage of Americans citing 'war' also ticked up slightly, mentions of foreign policy increased by four percentage points between July and August, the largest change seen this month. The increase in international involvement and talks of possible involvement may have led to this rise in mentions of foreign policy as the most important problem,” Gallup reported.
And here’s an interesting takeaway: Americans are now more concerned with non-economic issues than economic ones, a possible signal that events at home and abroad may have reached a tipping point for many voters.
“Many more Americans now mention a non-economic issue — such as dissatisfaction with government, immigration, or ethical and moral decline — than an economic one as the top problem,” Gallup reported. “This reverses the situation found during much of the recession and its aftermath, when more Americans listed economic issues. The renewed focus on non-economic issues was first evident in May 2013, and the gap between economic and non-economic mentions has now widened to 33 points, with 71 percent of Americans mentioning non-economic issues and 38 percent citing economic issues.”
And a final word of caution, from Gallup to Congress: “With the midterm congressional elections approaching, candidates would be wise to pay attention to these shifting priorities. In particular, Congress' lack of action on immigration could become a major issue in the fall campaign. Of course, it is challenging for the two parties to come to agreement during an intense political season, so it is not clear that Congress will address the issue even if its inaction puts some of its members' jobs in jeopardy.”