Yet again, when Americans ponder their future, it all comes down to “it’s the economy, stupid.” New Gallup research shows that people in the United States remain preoccupied with their jobs and economic health. Until a strong recovery of gross domestic product may wipe that out, finances will trump all other worries among most Americans, including those worries that are supposed to be pressing.
Few Americans mention guns or immigration as the most important problems facing the nation today, despite the current attention lawmakers in Washington are giving to these issues. The economy still dominates as the top concern, followed by jobs and dissatisfaction with the general way in which Congress and the government work.
The recession has pushed what might be core concerns about society to the point of barely being secondary ones, which means the shadow of the recession remains. Based on a close look at the data, the Gallup research results make sense. Joblessness is still close to 8% in many regions. When the number of people who work part time or are employed at low compensation are added, the number is closer to 13% or 14%. That means most Americans are likely to be out of work, or have a family member, neighbor or friend who is. And the real wages of most people have not risen in a decade, so even those with jobs cannot say they are better off than they were 10 years ago.
Home prices have not recovered very much from the recession either, if prices at the peak in 2005 and 2006 are any yardstick. The ability for Americans to tap home equity to drive up consumption is still restrained. Home equity, which used to be used for vacation homes, college or retirement, will stay lost for years, if the destroyed equity is ever rebuilt at all.
A social agenda built on quick and brutal incidents that stay on the front pages for long periods, and the fates of people who have come to the U.S. from other countries, might appear to capture the public’s attention long term. But when these people consider what their problems are, how they will make an even modest living pushes almost everything else to the sidelines.
Methodology: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 4 to 7, 2013, with a random sample of 1,005 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.