What’s Your Problem?

On the April NBC/Wall Street Journal survey (conducted jointly by POS partner Bill McInturff and Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates), respondents were read a series of problems facing American families and asked how serious each problem was. After taking a look at this data, two key points jumped out.

First, there are stark differences by generation. Seniors see problems such as the high rate of divorce, the decline in religion, the rise of single parent households, and violence in movies, television, and video games as very serious problems. Conversely, younger respondents (age 18-34) see these particular problems as far less of a concern.

Problem facing families % Very Serious Among Age 18-34 % Very Serious Among Age 65+
The high rate of divorce 48% 59%
The rise of single parent households 35% 52%
The declining role of religion in our society 32% 64%
Violent movies, TV, and video games 22% 79%

Clearly, these types of family values issues have little resonance with younger voters.

Second, there are also clear delineations between respondents with children in the home, and those without. Of the sixteen problems facing American families we tested, the ONLY two those with kids saw as a bigger concern than those without kids were the two problems that dealt with economic pressures.

Problem facing families % Very Serious Among Those with Children in Home % Very Serious Among Those without Children in Home
Economic pressures to make ends meet 73% 66%
Economic pressures forcing parents to work more 71% 60%

This data clearly demonstrates that, for American families, economic pressures overshadow every other issue.

The concern over economic issues mirrors what we often see in focus groups, as middle-class Americans are not comforted by a decreasing unemployment rate or a record setting Dow Jones Industrial Average. Instead, they voice concerns over the rising cost of gas, groceries, and health care.

The data from the survey and our findings from focus groups are an important reminder that while the debate over immigration and the latest on the various scandals afflicting the Obama administration may dominate the headlines inside the beltway, it is economic pressures and concerns that dominate the conversation at kitchen tables across the country.