One in four Americans name the economy as the most important problem facing the country today, followed by unemployment and jobs at 19%, and dissatisfaction with government at 17%. Nonwhites (25%) are much more likely than whites (16%) to say unemployment is the most important problem; this issue ranks behind dissatisfaction with government among whites. The economy ranks first for both groups.
Nonwhites are also slightly more likely than whites to mention the economy in general as the most important problem facing the country. In addition to dissatisfaction with government, whites are somewhat more likely than nonwhites to mention healthcare, the federal budget deficit, and ethical and moral decline as the nation’s top problem.
Nonwhites still more likely to mention jobs as top problem
These data come from the annual Work and Education survey, conducted each August. In this year’s survey, conducted Aug. 7-11, the nonwhite-white gap in mentions of unemployment or jobs as the most important problem (25% vs. 16%) is the largest seen between these racial groups in the August Work and Education polls since 2010. Concern about unemployment among whites and nonwhites moved generally moved in tandem between 2001 and 2009. Gallup found an 11-percentage-point gap in 2010, when nonwhites (36%) were more likely than whites (25%) to mention unemployment. The trends moved in tandem once again in 2011 and 2012, before the nine-point gap emerged this year.
Whites remain more concerned about the federal budget deficit
There is a five-point gap between the percentage of whites and nonwhites who mention the federal budget deficit as the most important problem, down from a 10-point gap in August 2012. This smaller gap is due mostly to fewer whites mentioning the deficit in 2013 (8%) than in 2012 (20%). Meanwhile, 3% of nonwhite Americans view the deficit as the most important problem, down from 10% in 2012, and back within the range Gallup has typically found for this group.
Nonwhites’ concern about economy plateaus, whites’ continues to fall
Overall, 53% of Americans mention some economic issue as the most important problem. This remains among the lower levels Gallup has seen over the past few years.
Mentions of economic issues among white and nonwhite Americans moved almost entirely in sync each August of the recent recession and its aftermath, with at least three-quarters of both groups reporting that some aspect of the economy was the most important problem facing the nation in 2011. Economic concerns dropped to 65% and 62% among whites and nonwhites, respectively, in 2012.
Gallup’s most recent data show that whites’ broad concern about the economy has dropped another 14 percentage points since this time last year. Meanwhile, a little-changed 60% of nonwhites list some aspect of the economy as the most important problem.
Gallup has previously pointed out differences in demographic groups’ perceptions of the most important problem facing the US, and minority groups’ higher levels of concern about unemployment and the economy. Gallup’s most recent data reinforce these findings, suggesting that while white and nonwhite Americans’ priorities have at times been in sync, there are stark differences this year in these racial groups’ perceptions of the economy’s health.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ July unemployment report indicates that the unemployment rate is six points higher among blacks than among whites. Further, the greater percentage of nonwhites vs. whites who mention the economy and unemployment as the most important problem likely reflects the differing realities of these two groups. These data indicate that nonwhite Americans are not feeling the recovery at the same level as white Americans.