Though confidence in the nation's economy is slowly but steadily rising, economic concerns continue to loom large in the minds of many Americans. A survey released by Gallup Polls late last week found that 71% of those polled said they personally worry a “great deal” about the economy, topping a list of fifteen different problems facing the country today. For the sake of comparison, consider that less than half as many people, 35%, said they worry a great deal about the possibility of a future terrorist attack on US soil. Economic issues dominated the list of Americans' concerns. Majorities also stated they worry a great deal about gas prices, federal spending, healthcare costs and unemployment.
The survey did, however, find that there is a fair amount of divergence on these issues when the findings are broken down by political affiliation. Federal spending and the budget deficit topped the list of concerns among Republicans, 84% of whom said they are worried about the national purse. By contrast, 56% of Independents and 42% of Democrats said they are worried a great deal about federal spending. On the other hand, the affordability and availability of healthcare was the greatest concern among Democrats, with 69% saying they worry a great deal about healthcare-related issues. At 61% this issue is also on the minds of many Independents as well, while fewer than half of Republicans, 46%, said it worries them a great deal.
In general, the outlook of Independents more closely mirrored that of the sample as a whole. The unaffiliated identified the economy, gas prices and healthcare as their top concerns these days. On most issues, Independents tended to fall somewhere between the Democrats and Republicans, as in the examples above. Interestingly, however, this pattern did not hold on the issues of drug use, crime and race relations. Just 38% of Independents stated that they worry a great deal about crime and violence, compared with 42% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats. Similarly, 35% of the unaffiliated identified drug use as a major source of worry, which was of great concern to 44% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans. On race relations, 15% of Independents said this issue worried them a great deal, compared with 16% of Republicans and 22% of Democrats.
Worries about the economy may well be exacerbated by the fact that Americans do not have much confidence in the Republican and Democratic parties abilities to address the variety of economic issues facing the country. A Rasmussen survey published on Sunday found that fewer than half of those polled, 49%, said they trust the Republican party on economic issues, while just 38% said they trusted the Democrats more.