American Public Opinion 2015 Year in Review


Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders running for president

By Art Swift and Glynn Wilson –

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The year 2015 was an “intriguing, complex and turbulent year,” according to Gallup.

A politically independent Vermont senator surged in the Democratic presidential race. Same-sex marriage became law in all 50 states. Russia’s leadership received the lowest approval ratings worldwide for the eighth consecutive year.

According to public opinion data, here are the top stories for 2015.

The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment. Amid talk of “falling unemployment” in the U.S. fueled by an “economic recovery,” Gallup Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton explored what the government’s unemployment figure really means and how inaccurate it is in modern-day America.

Sanders Surges, Clinton Sags in U.S. Favorability. Campaigns for the 2016 presidential election were in full swing in 2015. Some observers coined this past summer the “Summer of Sanders” as favorable ratings doubled for the Democratic socialist from Vermont. Hillary Clinton, who enjoyed high favorability as secretary of state, saw her image tilt negative, her worst rating since December 2007.

Three Quarters of Americans See Widespread Government Corruption. Three in four Americans in 2014 perceived corruption as widespread in the U.S. government, up from roughly two in three Americans in 2007 and 2009. The trend has been largely stable since 2010, but the percentage of U.S. adults who see corruption as pervasive has not dropped below majority levels in the past decade.

Americans Greatly Overestimate Percent Gay, Lesbian in U.S.. Same-sex marriage became legal across the U.S. in June. One month earlier, Gallup found that the U.S. public estimated 23 percent of Americans are gay or lesbian. In reality, the percentage is about 4 percent. The higher estimate may be attributable to increased media portrayals of gay characters in movies and on television, according to Gallup, along with the high-profile legal battle over gay marriage.

Fifty-Eight Percent of Americans Back Legal Marijuana Use. Americans are still very much in favor of legalizing marijuana, as Gallup found continued majority support for such a measure in 2015. Millennials and Generation Xers primarily fueled this support, but many baby boomers also said they favor legalizing marijuana.

Americans Name Government, Terrorism as No. 1 Problems. Gallup asks Americans each month to name the most important problem facing the U.S. In March, 18 percent identified “government” as the nation’s top problem, with the economy and unemployment trailing behind. Later in the year, after terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, terrorism topped the list.

Russia Receives Lowest Approval in World; U.S. Highest. Russia’s leadership received the lowest approval ratings worldwide for the eighth consecutive year in 2014. Countries affiliated with the West, particularly NATO countries, soured on Russia dramatically. At the same time, Russians and people in many of its former republics all felt much more negatively about the leadership of the U.S., the EU and Germany. However, U.S. leadership garnered the highest approval ratings worldwide, slightly outpacing Germany.

Socialist Presidential Candidates Least Appealing to Americans. Considering a list of various groups, from Catholics to Mormons and gays to Muslims, Americans said in June that a socialist presidential candidate was the least appealing. But 47 percent of Americans said they would support a socialist for president.

Support for Tea Party Drops to New Low. Americans’ support for the so-called “tea party” has dropped to its lowest level since the movement emerged on the national political scene prior to the 2010 midterm elections, according to the latest Gallup poll on the subject. Only 17 percent of Americans now say they consider themselves tea party supporters.

Pope Francis’ Favorable Rating Drops in U.S.. In advance of his first trip to the U.S., Pope Francis experienced a dip in popularity from the last time Gallup asked Americans about the pontiff in 2014. This drop occurred among both liberals and conservatives, and Catholics and Protestants. On average, Americans still rated Francis more favorably than his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

Why American Workers Hate Their Jobs and What To Do About It. In June of 2013 that Gallup had released its State of The American Workplace study, revealing that only 30 percent of the nation’s workers were fully engaged in their jobs.

© 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.