America's Summer Slump

Americans are Slightly More Likely To Mention Issues Related To The Economy (37%) Than Moral Issues (26%)--Says Ipsos-Reid U.S. Poll

America's Summer Slump

Washington, DC - "No single issue dominates American thinking today. As we approach the November anniversary of one of the closest elections in American history, the same absence of a single, galvanizing set of national or personal issues continues to characterize American attitudes," says Thomas Riehle, President, U.S. Public Affairs at Ipsos-Reid, the international polling organization.

"In terms of national issues, some focus on the economy and some on moral issues, with neither side of that division gaining ground or dominating the American consciousness. Americans are slightly more likely to mention issues related to the economy (37%) than moral issues (26%)--with Republican voters equally likely to mention moral issues (33%) rather than economic issues (32%) and Democrats twice as likely to mention economic (42%) rather than moral issues (21%). When just asked about the most important issue facing the U.S., roughly equal numbers mention issues related to the economy (21%) and moral issues (17%). The absence of polarizing issues dominating discussion is the recipe for a closely divided electorate at the start of the 21st Century," said Riehle.

In terms of problems facing the country, 37 percent mentioned issues related to the economy, including concerns about the economy in general, unemployment, poverty and homelessness, and 26 percent mentioned issues related to morality, including concerns about moral decay, the breakdown of the family and the assault on family values. In addition, 21 percent mentioned issues related to crime and drugs, 20 percent foreign affairs, and 17 percent the lack of strong political leadership. Only 13 percent mentioned education issues and only 8 percent mentioned energy issues.

Married people are almost as likely to volunteer issues related to morality (32%) as they are to mention national economic issues (36%). Unmarried people, by contrast, are twice as likely to mention the economy (40%) as moral issues (18%). Men are more likely to mention the economy (41%) than moral issues (23%); women are nearly equally divided between the economy (34%) and moral issues (29%).

In terms of problems facing their own households, half of all adults (52%) mentioned money issues, including concerns about the cost of living, and paying high taxes or hefty bills on time. Only 18 percent volunteered concerns about health, and 19 percent education and raising children, with women (26%) nearly three times more likely than men (10%) to mention issues of child rearing and education. The big surprise is the relatively high number (12%) who volunteer time management issues as the biggest problem facing their households.

Time management issues loom largest among those in households with annual incomes over $50,000 per year (19% mention time management issues), those in the Northeast (18%), those with a college degree (18%), and those with children (16%). Health issues loom largest for those over age 55 (36% of older Americans mention health-related issues as the biggest problem or challenge facing their household).

These results are based on a pair of open-ended questions, in which respondents were asked to volunteer in their own words the most important problems facing the country, and the biggest problems and challenges facing their own households.

"In general, Americans are in a summer slump. Overall, they are marginally more negative (49%) than positive (46%) in their assessment of how things are going in the country, with political Independents more concerned than Democrats about the course of events. While Republicans tend to feel the economy could be better and will get better soon, Independents think the economy is in poor shape and getting worse. That suggests the concern is less strictly partisan, and more a reflection of a sense of gridlock, that things are not getting done in Washington due to continued partisan bickering of the kind George W. Bush promised to end when he came to office," concludes Riehle, "Women, in particular, express concern about the direction things have taken in the country."

"Americans are more likely to rate the current state of the economy as negative (26%) rather than positive (20%), and are split over whether the economy will get better (25%) or worse (25%) in the next six months. On those measures, Democrats and Independents agree in their negative assessment of the current state of the economy and predicted short-term trends," Riehle added. "Concerns have even extended to people's own lives. America is traditionally a country of optimists about their own lives, but today, more than one-in-three Americans (38%) are less than positive in their assessment of how their own lives are going. When President Bush returns from his month-long vacation, he is likely to find a country that has grown more concerned about the state of the economy and the inability of political leaders to address those problems than what he left at the beginning of the month."

These are the findings of an Ipsos-Reid poll conducted between August 17 to August 19, 2001. The poll is based on a randomly selected sample of 1,000 U.S. adults nationwide. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within 177 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult U.S. population been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. These data were statistically weighted to ensure the sample's regional and age/sex composition reflects that of the actual U.S. population according to the most recent Census data.

To view the complete media release please download the PDF file.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Thom Riehle President & COO U.S. Public Affairs Ipsos-Reid (202) 463-7300

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