Americans concerned about government corruption

Gallup's latest data reveals Americans' priorities for whichever man wins the fall presidential election.

Tess Vigeland: Mark just told us about who got it right and who got it wrong in their predictions a year ago -- a lot of people DID get it VERY wrong.

But what most could agree on was that political dysfunction was on full display. Here we are a year later -- how fed up are we now?

Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief of Gallup and he joins us for every week for a little Attitude Check. Hi Frank. Good to talk to you again.

Frank Newport: Good to be with you.

Vigeland: OK, so you went out and asked people what the priorities should be for the next president of the United States, whoever that may be. And of course, number one was jobs. But the next one surprised me a little bit -- almost half the respondents said reducing government corruption was their priority, ranked higher than a deficit reduction and lower taxes. What is that all about?

Newport: Well, you know, it's an interesting point. We don't see corruption show up when we ask open-endedly: What's the top problem? What should the president do when elected? But when we put it in this list of about 14 or 15 different items, as you say, it pops right up with 45 percent saying it was extremely important. For one thing, I just think it sounds like kind of like fighting crime in general -- of course we should reduce corruption -- but also, it's probably symptomatic of the fact that a lot of Americans continue to be very, very negative about their federal government and the way Congress is working.

Vigeland: And in fact, a third of the people that you spoke to said that government gridlock was a problem -- um, yeah. It has been year at this point since we faced down the debt ceiling issue, we had the S&P downgrade going, Congress not able to agree pretty much on anything. I wonder if American satisfaction with this gridlock is worse, better, any different from about a year ago?

Newport: All of our indicators would certainly suggest that we are not as bad off attitudinally now as last year or a year ago. In fact, when I make a speech and look at graphs on consumer confidence and Obama's job approval rating and satisfaction with the way things are going in the U.S., there's a huge dropoff last July and August. People say: What was going on there? Was this some kind of international crisis? And I say no, it was debt ceiling debate and almost being on the brink of not being able to pay our debts. That really caused dramatic problems in Americans. A lot worse than we are now, but of course looking ahead, the big fear is of course that this year -- particularly near the end of the year -- we're going to see the same thing with this giant fiscal cliff facing us straight ahead.

Vigeland: And of course that fiscal cliff involving the expiration of the Bush tax cuts as well as some possible big spending cuts on the way. Frank Newport is editor-in-chief at Gallup. Thanks so much, good to talk to you.

Newport: My pleasure.

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.

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