America has its problems — what country doesn’t? But what would you say is America’s most pressing issue, if asked? It’s not an easy question to answer. A nation is an enormous and immensely complicated thing, and at any given moment, it’s facing threats both internal and external. And it’s not just the obvious issues or threats you need to consider, however. There are both long and short-term problems to contend with.
Bad leadership, for example, can be remedied with a new administration being voted into office. Structural shortcomings, on the other hand, might require bigger and more intricate strategies — strategies that need to be stuck to and carried out by multiple administrations.
But most of us don’t give that many philosophical ponderings to America’s problems. We just know that we need bigger paychecks, more affordable housing options, and a president that we can trust. The average American simply wants things to work and for their children to have a better shot than they did. We’re a simple people; in most cases, we just want a shot at the American dream.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t have our concerns, though. A new Gallup poll gives us an idea as to what, exactly, the biggest concerns are. Gallup polled more than 1,000 Americans in early December to harvest the data, and by comparing the averages for all 12 months of 2017, we have a list of America’s biggest problems, according to Americans.
We’ll run through the top of the list, though number one might not come as much of a surprise given what’s been happening over the past couple of years.
8. Terrorism and North Korea
- 4% of respondents pointed to terrorism and the situation with North Korea as the country’s top problem.
Make no mistake, both terrorism and the situation with North Korea are very serious issues. Serious enough that they actually amount to life and death situations. But for many Americans, they’re also far-flung problems — issues we don’t contend with on a day to day basis. For that reason, relatively few people said that they were their biggest concerns.
Next: Jobs, jobs, jobs.
- Unemployment continues to be of concern despite the economy reaching “full employment”.
6% of respondents to the Gallup poll said that unemployment and jobs were their biggest concern, or the biggest issue facing America at the end of 2017. While this has been an ongoing issue, we do have to take a step back and look at the context. Currently, we’re at or near full-employment, meaning that everyone who wants a job, has a job. The unemployment rate is 4.1% as of November, and you can compare that to 10% in October of 2009. Jobs are back, but clearly, a portion of the population is still anxious about employment.
Next: Jobs, more generally.
6. The economy
- “Economy in general” was the top response from 7% of those polled.
Though jobs and employment are obviously an important element when discussing the economy, the poll does separate the two into different categories. “Economy in general”, in this case, was the biggest concern for 7% of those polled by Gallup, beating out jobs and unemployment by a percentage point. And like with the employment numbers, the economy is in pretty good shape. But it speaks to something that despite record stock market highs, people still feel the economy is of great concern.
Next: Can we all just get along?
5. National unity
- 7% of respondents said that “unifying the country” was the top national concern.
If you can say anything about America looking back over the past few years, it’s that we’ve become more divided. Technology is shrinking the world, but simultaneously creating echo chambers and insulated groups, tearing at the fabric of society. There isn’t much hope for unity in the short-term, either, given President Trump’s divisive rhetoric toward anyone who isn’t in his base.
- Another hot-button topic, immigration is at the top of the list for 7% of those polled.
If immigration wasn’t a major concern before, it is now. In no small part thanks to President Trump, who made immigration — illegal immigration along our southern border, specifically — one of his top campaign issues. As a result, we were promised a wall that we would not pay for, jobs saved from illegal aliens, and fewer chances for terrorists to sneak into the country. While illegal immigration is an issue, it’s often overstated in just how much it affects the average American.
Next: Race relations.
- Another hot topic, racism was mentioned as America’s biggest problem by 8% of those polled.
For a while, it felt like racism had subsided in America — at least to a degree. But 2016 and 2017 have shown us that that was all an illusion if you believed it at all. Ferguson, Baltimore, Charlottesville — these cities and others now have a fresh new connotation in Americans’ minds than they did a couple of years ago. Racism is still a problem in America, and according to the polling, a big one.
Next: The health care system.
- We almost saw our health care system upended earlier this year. It was saved (for now), but its problems remain.
The main issue with health care in America is that it’s too expensive. Either that or the system is set up in such a way that some people are completely shut out of it. The Affordable Care Act solved some pre-2010 problems (pre-existing conditions, etc.) but created others. Republicans tried to come up with an alternative plan that would have essentially been the ACA, but a stripped-down version. All told 10% of those polled named health care as the nation’s biggest problem.
Finally: The elephant in the room.
1. Government and poor leadership
- One-fifth (20%) of those polled said government and poor leadership are America’s biggest current problem.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. But you should know that “government” and “poor leadership” has been at or near the top of the list for many years now. And it’s not all about Trump or Obama. According to Gallup: “The “government” category is quite general, encompassing negative references to President Donald Trump, Congress, partisan gridlock and more general manifestations of disapproval of the way the government system works.”
To see the full poll results and methodology, visit Gallup.
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