What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?

Ralph Voss
Columnist for the Unterrified Democrat

Since the 1930s the Gallup polling organization has been asking Americans the following question: What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” This question is polled monthly. I’m quite surprised at some of the results. I think you might be also.

Just last month, 14% of Americans thought economic problems were the most important issues facing the country, while 84% thought non-economic issues were the most significant.

Of those 14%, only 3% considered the economy in general their top priority and another 3% thought unemployment/jobs deserved top billing. The federal budget deficit/federal debt was the principal concern of only 2%, with the same portion finding the gap between rich and poor as their principal worry.

The following four issues each deserved the top attention of only 1%: Lack of money, wage issues, taxes, and corporate corruption. Fewer than 1% considered high cost of living/inflation and fuel/oil prices as the most important problems. 

In December, non-economic issues weighed much heavier on the minds of Americans. Government/poor leadership was the top consideration of 19%, with immigration coming in at 16%. These were the only two issues in the entire poll that came in at double-digits.

Unifying the country was the leading issue for 8%, race relations/racism 7%, poverty/hunger/homelessness 6%, healthcare 5%, environment/pollution 5%, lack of respect for each other 5%, crime/violence 4%, ethics/morality, religious/family decline 3%, guns/gun control 3%.

Each of the following issues were the major concerns of only 2%: Education, judicial system/courts/laws, drugs; while only 1% thought the following were of paramount importance: international issues and problems, school shootings, Social Security, the media, national security.

There were 16 categories – some of which I feel are quite important – which were considered the most important issues by fewer than 1%: Abortion, elections/election reform, situation with North Korea, care for elderly/Medicare, terrorism, foreign policy/foreign aid, children’s behavior/way they are raised, lack of military defense, gay/lesbian rights, advancement of computers/technology, situation with Russia, wars/war (non-specific)/fear of war, situation in Iraq/ISIS, war/conflict between Middle East nations, natural disaster response, welfare.

I cannot disagree with those Americans that rated government/poor leadership (19%) and immigration (16%) as very important issues. Those two issues go hand-in-hand because many think we have poor leadership because immigration is being handled so poorly.

I was surprised that only 3% felt the economy in general was most important. Compare that to the 1992 presidential campaign, when Bill Clinton’s troops put primary emphasis on economic issues. Older Americans will never forget: “It’s the economy, stupid,” a sign that hung in the Clinton campaign headquarters.

The thing about the poll results that alarm me the most is that fewer than 4% of the people seem to care about what I’m convinced are the problems that must be confronted and soon. These are the federal budget deficit/federal debt (2%), Social Security (1%), Medicare (less than 1%). Possibly even more alarming is that under-funded pensions is not even listed as an option that people can choose as the nation’s major problem.

The fact is federal debt, Social Security, Medicare and under-funded pensions are on the radar screens of relatively few Americans. This speaks poorly of the media. With the exception of Bloomberg news service – which appears to have done the best job of helping make people aware of these issues – the people in the media deserve a failing grade on this score. The media is willing to talk non-stop of the dangers of Donald Trump and climate change but devote no coverage to debt, Social Security, Medicare and pensions. To create fake news, a news organization doesn’t have to present false stories. It might even be worse to ignore some segments of the news

Pelosi and Schumer are currently whining and crying about federal employees not getting their paychecks because of the government shutdown and the media folks are giving them lots of ink and air time. If the people in this unholy alliance really cared for the American people, they could show concern for everyone by addressing debt and spending, Social Security, Medicare and pensions.

Don’t ever expect to hear from the media that the wave of illegal immigrants entering this country is making it even more difficult for the government to address these problems. That’s another example of fake news. The media deplore the term fake news, but it seems to me it’s a perfect description, and if it upsets the media, all the more reason to use it.