Barry Ritholtz --- Bloomberg View
The Gallup polling organization is in the business of taking the pulse of the American public. A new survey detects a surprising shift in perceptions. It points not just to the nation's sour mood and disappointment with the drawn-out recovery, but also to a sense that something different is now wrong with the U.S.
In 2014, four issues generated enough public concern over enough months for at least 10% of Americans, on average, to identify each of them as the nation's most important problem. Complaints about government leadership -- including President Barack Obama, the Republicans in Congress and general political conflict -- led the list, at 18%. This was closely followed by mentions of the economy in general (17%), unemployment or jobs (15%) and healthcare (10%).
This is quite notable for several reasons: One of the more significant observations is that for the first year since 2007, the economy wasn't the top issue.
This should come as no surprise to those who pay attention to economic data. Third-quarter gross domestic product checked in at a stunning 5 percent rate. Unemployment is at 5.8 percent, down from 10 percent in late 2009. The U.S. economy added 321,000 workers in November. Wages are ticking up, inflation is minimal and fuel prices have been cut in half. What is surprising is that the economy remains the second-biggest issue; given this run of good data, a more informed pool of survey respondents should have moved the economy much further down the list.
More intriguing is what was the top issue -- and for the first time ever: Government leadership. Considering those records go back to when George Gallup founded the American Institute of Public Opinion in 1935, that’s quite the data point.