Immigration tops list of problems facing U.S., says new Gallup poll

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Government, immigration, and the economy are what Americans believe are the most important problems currently facing the country.

Since the start of the year, both government and the economy have topped the list, but mentions of immigration spiked in July and remain high in August, according to recent Gallup polling, most likely in response to the current crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion in emergency appropriation, to respond to the situation, which congressional Republicans rejected.

Prior to the August recess, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives passed two immigration bills, but both bills have a slim chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate to become law.

Failure to act on immigration before recess is a source of anger for Americans who report that immigration is the most important issue, and a clear reason why mentions of immigration are higher for a second consecutive month.

Twelve percent of respondents mentioned jobs or unemployment as the top issue, down from studies conducted earlier this year.

At the beginning of 2014, jobs, the general economy, dissatisfaction with government, and healthcare were the three problems Americans mentioned most.

However, as of last month, immigration surged 12 percent, while fewer Americans named jobs, government, and healthcare.

In another Gallup poll taken Aug. 7-10, references to immigration, the economy, and jobs as important problems have each dipped to some extent.

In the Aug. survey, Americans noted foreign policy as the most important problem facing the U.S., more so than July, possibly a response to new U.S. military involvement in Iraq, clashes between Israelis and Palestinians and the situation in Russia-Ukraine.

Americans citing “war” as a concern also jumped slightly, the mention of foreign policy increased by the largest change this month—up four percentage points between July and August.

Non-economic issues — dissatisfaction with government, immigration, declines in ethical and moral attitudes – are mentioned by more Americans as a top problem than economic concerns. This seems to be a reversal from how it was during much of the recession and its aftermath, when more Americans noted economic issues.

A renewed focus on non-economic issues began around May 2013, and now the gap between economic and non-economic issues has now widened to 33 points; 71 percent of all Americans have mentioned non-economic issues, while 38 percent state economic issues are the most important.

Since May 2013, Americans are shifting focus to non-economic issues as the most important U.S. problem, a trend that continued this month.

From 2008 through 2013, economic issues received the most mentions, during periods of economic suffering and higher unemployment.

Now that the economy is recovering, indicated by positive signals such as the six-year high in Gallup’s Job Creation Index and higher consumer spending, non-economic issues (government and immigration) are a greater concern to Americans.

As the midterm elections approach, a good strategy for candidates would be to pay attention to the shifting priorities of the electorate. Congress’ lack of action on immigration would be of particular interest, sure to become a major issue in the fall election cycle.

Both parties coming to agreement during the intense political season is a particular challenge, so it is not clear that Congress will tackle immigration, even though the issue could jeopardize members’ jobs.

This Gallup poll used a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia via telephone interviews conducted Aug. 7-10.

There is a margin of sampling error is ±4 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.