Americans disagree with each other on almost everything, it seems. We can’t even agree on which issues are most important. A Gallup survey just before the inauguration revealed that there is no stand-out issue on which Americans agree “this is the most important”.
Gallup has done the same survey at the beginning of each president’s first term for decades, and almost every time there was a huge looming issue that many of us agreed on — Vietnam in 1968, but in all other years it was the economy, inflation, and cost-of-living (except for 2001, in which there was no agreement). The biggest agreement of my lifetime was in 1974, when Gerald Ford took office, and 77% of respondents said “inflation/cost of living” was the most important issue.
Today, only 11% said the economy was the biggest issue at hand; another 11% said “government dissatisfaction”.
Race relations was third, at 10%. Healthcare was the top issue for 9% of Americans, and two issues tied with 8% each: unemployment and election reform. Other issues that received between 2 and 5% of the responses include terrorism, education, ethics/moral decline, federal budget deficit, immigration, crime/violence, lack of money, lack of respect for each other, national security, unifying the country, gap between rich and poor, judicial system, poverty/homelessness, Iraq/ISIS, wage issues, no opinion, and other.
I found it extremely interesting that climate change/environment wasn’t on the list. I assume this is because Gallup didn’t offer it as a choice. Further, I noticed that civil rights wasn’t listed. Neither was abortion, gun control, or warrantless NSA spying.
Nine years ago, I asked my readers which problem or political issue in the U.S. was most important. I opined then that the biggest problem was increased polarization:
I listed several issues for readers to choose from. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a response then — I’ve never had more than a handful of dedicated readers for this blog. So naturally, I wondered what my current readers might think the biggest issue in our nation is today.
As for me, I still think polarization is a giant issue, though I’m no longer convinced it’s the biggest.
In the past nine years, I’ve become increasingly concerned over climate change (which I hope has been obvious), which threatens us all in the long run. The problem with climate change is that it’s a long-term issue — we caused it over several lifetimes, and it will require several lifetimes to solve it. It moves slowly, by fractions of a degree. It’s difficult for people to get really wrapped up in it because the ice caps are still there, the sea level rise is measured in centimeters, and local weather easily fools many people into thinking there is no overall pattern.
Another biggie is the single-party nature of our country. I once complained that the “two-party system” was aggravating, but now a combination of gerrymandering, Electoral College unfairness, demagoguery, and fake news has all but eliminated one of the two major parties (despite the out-of-power party being more popular and having a more favorable image). I’m not comfortable living in a single-party nation. It doesn’t happen often in our history that a single party controls the presidency, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and a supermajority of state governments. And bad things usually happen under such single-party control.
And since I’m the author, I’ll allow myself to mention one more: the increasing tendency of government (at all levels) to side with giant corporations and the very wealthy against the most vulnerable. This is almost certainly a direct result of how much money is annually unloaded onto members of Congress and even state-level officials. It doesn’t help that about half of U.S. voters openly support this tendency.
So, I’ll ask again: What do you think is the most important problem in the U.S. today? Is one of the above, or something else?