In two blasts of data issued today, Gallup reports that its economic confidence index rose from -21 to -18 for the week ending January 13 and, in a separate release, concern about the federal budget deficit and “government dysfunction” have replaced unemployment as the most important problem facing the country. That marks the first time since 2009 that unemployment has not topped the list as the most important problem.
The economic confidence index rose slightly based on an improvement in Americans’ economic outlook that more than offset a slide in people’s view of current conditions. As Galllup points out:
Americans’ confidence in the economy is higher on a relative basis than at almost any point in the last five years, though Americans remain more negative than positive in their overall evaluations of the economy. There are certainly positive signs in the economy, such as lower unemployment, modest economic growth, and an improving housing market.
Gallup’s other data release highlights another issue:
[T]he “dissatisfaction with government” percentage is as high as it has been since the Watergate days of 1974, although the precise ways in which these open-ended questions have been coded has changed somewhat during that time.
The shift in emphasis from jobs to government dysfunction and the federal deficit have reached levels not seen since the 1970s (dysfunction) and the 1990s (deficit). The political divide in Congress is mirrored by Gallup’s results: 12% of Democrats think the federal deficit is the biggest problem we face, while 30% of Republicans think deficits are the biggest problem. Some 21% of Democrats are dissatisfied with government compared with just 13% of Republicans.
The Democrats just won another four years in the White House and at least another two years of putative control of the U.S. Senate. And they are unhappy with government? Imagine how they would be feeling if they had lost.
Republicans think deficits are the biggest problem at a time when interest rates are at an all-time low and virtually every economist believes that cutting spending now will only push the United States into recession. Ideology always trumps, well, everything else.