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Michael Zimmer: Polls highlight dissatisfaction

I would prefer my elected leaders not be obsessed with polls, but reputable polling does provide insights into what is stirring among the American people.

Gallup has been the gold standard of polling for years. Gallup polls on a number of topics, including what people consider the number one issue of concern in our nation at any given time. According to a Jan. 15 Gallup poll, the number one response - at 21 percent - is a catch all dissatisfaction with government, poor leadership, corruption and abuse of power.

With such a broad grouping, it is tough to know what is driving this response.

Some folks are likely upset with revelations of government data gathering. Others might be ticked at the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Still others may be disappointed at the way government is addressing jobs and the economy.

That brings us right to the next two items in frequency of response. The economy in general was cited by 18 percent of respondents as the top issue. This was followed at 16 percent by those who listed unemployment as their number one concern. To me, those actually seem like the exact same issue. I'm not sure why Gallup separates them in this manner.

Also coming in at 16 percent was poor health care and the high cost of health care. I'm guessing that dissatisfaction with either the rollout or substance of the ACA plays into those who selected this as their chief concern. I'll address some additional thoughts on the impact of ACA toward the end of the column.

The federal budget deficit or federal debt represented the response of 8 percent of those sampled. Spending our children's and grandchildren's future wealth on our current budgets never held much appeal to me.

The next most frequent topic of concern, at 5 percent, was the grouping of ethics, morals and family decline. A small amount of TV viewing or time spent on the Internet will no doubt confirm that we've got some troubles in this general area.

Gallup's polling efforts revealed a four-way tie at 4 percent to round out the top 10 responses. These included lack of money, gap between the rich and poor, education and poverty.

It is easy to understand why education would be a top 10 finisher. Maryland seems to mirror the education situation we see across the country. Some jurisdictions experience very high quality outcomes as demonstrated in test scores. Others consistently lag behind.

The other three 4 percent responses seem to go back to our sluggish job outlook and disappointing economic performance over the last seven years.

According to a report aired on CNBC earlier this week, the job and economic prospects for our country remain rather tough. CNBC shared details from a recent Congressional Budget Office report measuring the effects of the ACA on jobs and the economy.

The findings suggest that a historically high number of folks will be "locked out of the workforce by 2021." The report further suggested that the ACA "will cause a larger-than-expected reduction in working hours - eliminating the equivalent of about 2.3 million workers in 2021."

CBO concluded that the combination of new taxes and potential loss of subsidies will lead workers to voluntarily work fewer hours.

I have a feeling voters in competitive congressional elections may be reminded about this CBO study via some television ads between now and November.

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