What Can Change Do For You?

Posted January 17, 2008 at 12:45pm

Leading presidential candidates from both parties have thrown about the word change as if it’s the only issue that speaks to American voters. And, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released today, nearly 80 percent of Americans do want to see the next president change direction from Bush administration policies. Of the more than 1,021 adults questioned between Jan. 10-13, only 17 percent of respondents want to see current policies continued.

The Iraq War (26 percent), health care (19 percent) and the economy (18 percent) were specific areas where Americans most want to see change. Illegal immigration (10 percent) is the only other response that garnered a double-figure percentage. The margin of error in this poll was ‘2 percent.

Gallup points out that these results parallel those found in monthly polls asking Americans to identify the most important problem facing the nation. This January’s top four problems are Iraq, the economy, health care, and immigration. “This finding is significant. It suggests that when Americans say they want the next president to bring about change, they mainly are thinking about solving what they perceive to be the nation’s significant problems. There is very little discussion in these open-end[ed questions] of a desire to bring about more fundamental changes in the way Washington operates, in the process of governing, and so forth.”

But, Gallup also has tracked voters’ concerns about change generally. A series of annual polls taken since January 2001 – which ask about satisfaction with the system of government and not about specific issues – have shown declining numbers of Americans who are very satisfied with our government and rising numbers of those who are very dissatisfied since 2002. Despite the shift at the extremes of the spectrum, the percentages of “somewhat satisfied” and “somewhat dissatisfied” Americans have held relatively steady. Current numbers show that the total of satisfied Americans outnumber the total of dissatisfied Americans 53 percent to 47 percent as of the Jan. 4-6 poll of 1,023 adults. The margin of error in this poll is ‘3 percent.