In Gallup's review of their 2014 polling of the American people, they found something surprising: for the first time ever, it was not the economy, or unemployment, or health care, or immigration that Americans thought was the biggest problem in the country. Americans think that the government itself is the biggest problem facing America today.
As the Gallup authors write, "government includes dissatisfaction with President Obama, Congress, other government leaders, ethics of politicians and political conflict." That this cluster of issues tops Gallup's year-end list is the culmination of years of fomenting discontent with government. It's risen from the single digits to the mid-teens and, in for the first time ever in 2014, government was the number one problem Americans think is plaguing America, as the number one issue for 18% of Americans.
"Government" was the third-most important problem in 2012 and the second-most important problem in 2013. The number of people who think that the economy or unemployment is the biggest problem have plummeted during the (slow) recovery from the 2008 recession, and were the second- and third-most important problems in 2014. Of course, if you're one to think that unemployment and the economy are inextricably linked, economic anxiety might still top the list.
As the Gallup authors write:
Of the top five issues that most concerned Americans in 2014, the economy and unemployment are significantly less dominant than they were even two years ago. At the same time, concerns about government and immigration have been mounting, while concerns about healthcare have consistently simmered at a moderately high level since 2009.
This poll result does not reflect dissatisfaction solely with President Obama, or even Democrats. It also reflects on Republicans in Washington, though they obviously in 2014 only controlled one half Congress, which is only a quarter of the policymaking branches of the federal government.
With GOP control of all of Congress coming in 2015, it'll be interesting to see if they're able to move the needle on restoring Americans' trust in their elected officials.
Here are the full results: