Perils of the press: We have ADHD in the media and so do news consumers

Gallup shows immigration at top of issues list

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The trend spotters at Gallup have released their latest poll of what issues are of most concern to Americans.  Immigration tops the list; 17 percent say it is our most important problem.

Given the amount of press attention devoted to the latest border troubles, this isn’t a surprise.  But given that only 5 percent of those polled in June named immigration as the top problem, it is a surprise – and probably an anomaly.

Here is what the issues food chain has looked like lately:

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Immigration hasn’t been a top of the charts issue since 2006. And as Gallup notes, “Each previous spike in mentions of immigration as the nation's top problem was fairly short-lived.”  Republicans are much more concerned than Democrats.

There are a couple of interesting trends in this polling.

Health care has declined from 16 percent in January to 8 percent now as a top problem.  But the issue seems to still be super-charged in congressional campaigns.  Will this ebb in the coming months? Is Obamacare less unhealthy to Democrats than once thought?

Dissatisfaction for Congress and political leadership is diminishing as a top of mind complaint.  As usual, this probably bodes well for incumbents who somehow manage to hold on to their seats in election after election while confidence in government relentlessly plummets.

Despite a good deal of attention to dramatic crises in Iraq, the Middle East and the Ukraine, foreign issues didn’t make a blip on the issue-o-meter.

Economic problems – unemployment, fiscal worries and general concerns – when totaled remain most important to about 40 percent of those polled. 

The theme here seems to be that beyond economic worries, the issues poll is heavily influenced by what the press covers. And that can be fairly random.

With immigration now, people don’t seem to have very entrenched or informed views.  A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows Americans are unhappy with the way both D’s and R’s are handling the current immigration problem.

On one hand, 58 percent disapprove of how President Barack Obama is handling the situation. On the other hand, 53 percent support the request Obama made for $3.7 billion to handle the situation.

Translation: Americans disapprove of how Obama is handling the situation, and Americans approve of how Obama is handling the situation.

This is what you get, I suppose, when an issue bursts into the news cycle’s ADHD attention span with saturation talking heads and politicians flocking to microphones like moths to light bulbs.

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