Americans may still tend to be gloomy about the economy, but its importance as a major political issue has been steadily decreasing as the jobless rate has fallen

The state of the economy continues to be Americans’ minds, and relatively few think it is getting better. More say it’s getting worse than it is improving, even though Americans increasingly recognize that the jobless rate is lower than it was when President Obama first took office. One bright spot: recent Economist/YouGov Polls suggest that while the economy is a concern, Americans may actually be worrying less. 

The latest Economist/YouGov Poll found about a third of Americans saying the economy was continuing to get worse, while just 24% believed it was getting better. It has been that way for the last few months, and for much of the Obama Administration. But today’s answers are significantly better than the responses people gave in 2011, though there was a tad more optimism in 2013.

But what has changed even more in the last few years is that fewer Americans now describe that the economy is the most important issue for them. Only 24% say that in the current poll. That percentage has been about a third for the last year; it was nearly 50% at its peak. 

The economy remains the number one concern for every group of Americans (though by a diminished margin) except one: Americans 65 years old and older rank Social Security first, at 31%, while 16% choose the economy. And for many Republicans, immigration is nearly as important as the economy. For those with family incomes of $100,000 or more, the environment is a strong second to the environment. 

It may actually be an improving economy that gives Americans the flexibility to worry about other issues.  But other issues have also emerged. Concern about Immigration, especially the recent surge of children crossing the Mexican border, has surged this week. Mentions of immigration were also higher during the debate about the Arizona law that allowed police to ask for documents from anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally. 

The budget deficit rose in importance during the government shutdown in October 2013.  Education usually ranks higher at the start and the end of the school year. Health care mentions jumped during the 2010 debate over the Affordable Care Act. Foreign policy problems have never ranked high, even during times of overseas tension. 

But while the economy been the top ranked issue, it no longer dominates the public’s worries as much as it did. 

President Obama’s rating on the economy is negative, though not as negative as it was in 2011, when for a time more than six in ten disapproved of how he was handling the economy.

Image: PA

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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