The public’s problem with government, in one chart

The country faces a host of problems, say Americans in a new poll from Gallup. But none bigger than the government.

A plurality (21 percent) cite dissatisfaction with the government -- including Congress and politicians -- as the most important problem facing the country today.

The economy places second with 18 percent, followed by jobs and unemployment and health care, each cited by 16 percent.

So, when did government become such a big problem in the minds of Americans? It was consistently a top concern throughout 2013. But the government shutdown in October sent worries skyrocketing, as the following chart shows. Thirty-three percent named government the top problem in an early October poll, up big from 16 percent in September.

chart78

The shutdown may seem like a distant memory for many Americans, especially as the debate over health care  has moved to the forefront of the national conversation. But the public's feelings about government as a problem have not returned to pre-shutdown levels.

It's all a reminder of 1) how quickly a big event like the shutdown can make Americans lose faith in government and 2) how it hasn't disappeared totally from the public's consciousness.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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