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Gallup: Americans not stoked about country’s direction

Annual ‘Mood of the Nation’ survey finds partisan divides on economy and policy — and not much joy

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The sun begins to set on the Capitol building in Washington.

The sun begins to set on the Capitol building after the sixth failed vote to elect a House speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. As President Joe Biden prepares to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 7, Gallup’s newest Mood of the Nation poll finds many Americans are not satisfied with the direction of the country.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

As President Joe Biden prepares to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 7, Gallup’s newest Mood of the Nation poll finds Americans still feeling a bit grumpy.

Given a list of eight measures, a majority of adults surveyed only viewed positively the quality of life in the U.S. (65%) and the opportunity to get ahead by working hard (61%), Gallup reported. And even that thumbs-up marks a steep decline from when the numbers were at their highest — 89% and 77%, respectively, two decades ago.

Still, Gallup said separately that the overall satisfaction is “similar to last month, but higher than a year ago.”

Just under half of Americans are satisfied with the influence of organized religion, at 48%. That’s identical to the findings a year ago.

But it’s downhill from there when folks were asked if they are “very” or “somewhat” satisfied. It appears that, often, the answer is neither.

A third of Americans are happy with “the size and power of the federal government” (up 1% from 2022). An identical 33% are satisfied with “our system of government and how well it works.”

And the government fares better than “the size and influence of major corporations” (27%), “the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S.” (24%, down from 30% last year) and the “moral and ethical climate” (20% both years).

According to Gallup, “The only significant change in the broad societal ratings over the past year is a 6-percentage-point decline in satisfaction with the way income and wealth are distributed. This may reflect, at least in part, the prolonged period of high inflation since January 2022 that has created financial hardship for many.”

The polling company found that “average satisfaction was significantly higher” in 2020, just before the pandemic started.

Other findings

The poll also looked at 22 other issues to measure public satisfaction, finding that more than half were somewhat or very satisfied with only four of them:

  • “The nation’s military strength and preparedness” (64%).
  • “The position of women in the nation” (62%).
  • “The acceptance of gays and lesbians in the nation” (55%).
  • “The nation’s security from terrorism” (55%).

The poll found the least satisfaction in the nation’s campaign finance laws, at just 14%. People were almost as dissatisfied with how the United States deals with poverty and homelessness, with just 15% approving. That dropped 6 percentage points from January 2022.

On the topic of health care, Gallup found plenty of room for improvement. While just under half were satisfied with the quality of medical care in America (49%), only 36% were satisfied with the availability of affordable health care. Social Security and Medicare had a 45% approval rating.

Few expressed satisfaction with the economy, with just 1 in 4 saying they are satisfied. Just 26% approve of the amount paid in the U.S. for federal taxes.

That’s in line with a MarketWatch story in early January that said close to 4 in 5 Americans expect the country to face “great economic difficulty in 2023.”

The Gallup poll said that between a third and half approve of U.S. environment quality, the U.S. role in world affairs, the position of Black people and other racial minorities, and the nation’s gun policies.

Even fewer approve of the state of race relations, energy policies, government regulation of business and industries, public education quality, the level of immigration into the country and crime-reduction efforts.

Just over 1 in 4 are satisfied with U.S. abortion policies.

Pick a side

The biggest partisan divide is found on the influence of organized religion. A majority of Republicans (60%) and just a third of Democrats are at least somewhat satisfied. The views are reversed on the size and power of the federal government, with Democrats far more likely to be satisfied (52%) compared to Republicans (14%). Independents are in the middle on both.

Members of neither party like the distribution of income and wealth in the U.S., with a third of Republicans somewhat or very satisfied, compared to 13% of Democrats. Numbers are also low on the size and influence of major corporations and on the moral and ethical climate.

Per the report, “the widest gap is seen on the nation’s gun laws, with 56% of Republicans versus 12% of Democrats satisfied. But the gulf is nearly as wide for the quality of the environment and the position of Black people and other racial minorities in the nation — both of which receive higher satisfaction ratings from Republicans than Democrats.”