The biggest problem the United States faces is not unemployment or the economy — it's the country's government, according to a plurality of Americans cited in a recent Gallup poll. Among Republicans, Democrats and independents, dissatisfaction with the U.S.'s political leadership topped all other issues.
The open-ended question they answered in the monthly poll of American attitudes was, "What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?"
Gallup says that 21 percent of all respondents' answers fell into a category titled "Dissatisfaction with government/Congress/politicians; Poor leadership/Corruption/Abuse of power."
That topic was followed by the economy, with 18 percent overall. The poll found a tie at 16 percent, between unemployment and health care.
But not all political groups saw things the same way. While 24 percent of Republicans said health care was the biggest problem (coming in second to the government at 26 percent), only 13 and 14 percent of independents and Democrats, respectively, said health care was America's No. 1 problem.
As NPR's It's All Politics reported last week, a record number of Americans now identify themselves as independents.
According to Gallup, the rankings are similar to what a poll revealed in December. This month's poll, the last before President Obama's State of the Union speech, could reflect the topics that dominate his upcoming speech, slated for Jan. 28.
The government has been pointed to as America's biggest problem in all of Gallup's monthly polls since October, when that sentiment peaked at 33 percent. Those results were largely driven by the shutdown of the federal government. But Gallup attributes the issue's staying power to concerns over the new federal health care system, as well.
As for the past year, Gallup offers some perspective:
"Compared with a year ago, mentions of government are up slightly. Mentions of healthcare, on the other hand, have quadrupled — from 4 percent in January 2013 to 16 percent today, likely related to highly visible problems with the rollout of the 2010 healthcare law. At the same time, references to the federal deficit or debt have declined from 20 percent to 8 percent, while mentions of the economy in general have dipped from 21 percent to 18 percent, and mentions of unemployment/jobs are the same, at 16 percent."
Gallup says the poll was conducted via telephone, with a random sample of more than 1,000 Americans more than 18 years old. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points, the service says.