The US public is giving the highest priority to economic issues, according to the findings of the Pew Research Center For The People & The Press January 2012 Political Survey. 86% say that strengthening the economy should be a top priority for the president and Congress this year, and 82% rate improving the job situation as a top priority. None of the other 20 issues tested in this annual survey rate as a top priority for more than 70% of Americans. Only 25% called global warming a top priority, a decrease of 13 percentage points over 5 years.
|Top policy priorities for 2012. Source: Pew. Click to enlarge.|
More generally, the public’s concerns rest more with domestic policy than at any point in the past 15 years; 81% say Obama should be focused on domestic policy, just 9% say foreign policy. In keeping with this, defending against terrorism and strengthening the military are given less priority today than over the course of the past decade.
The new poll finds that the federal budget deficit stands out as the fastest growing policy priority for Americans, largely because of growing Republican concerns about the issue. In the national survey, conducted 11-16 January among 1,502 adults, 69% rate reducing the budget deficit as a top priority—the most in any of the Pew Research Center’s annual policy priority updates going back to 1994.
The number of Republicans rating the budget deficit as a top priority has spiked to 84% from 68% a year ago and just 42% five years ago. Meanwhile Republicans are placing far less emphasis on terrorism, which was their top priority in every year between 2002 and 2008. Today 72% rate it as a top priority, down from 83% a year ago and 93% five years ago. By contrast, the emphasis Democrats and independents give to terrorism and the budget deficit has changed far less.
No issue divides partisans more than the importance of environmental protection: 58% of Democrats say it is a top priority, compared with just 27% of Republicans. Of the 22 items tested, environmental protection is one of the lowest GOP priorities, along with such issues as improving transportation infrastructure and campaign finance reform. Dealing with the nation’s energy problems, by contrast, is of equal importance to both Republicans (55% top priority) and Democrats (57%), though other recent surveys suggest that partisans have very different solutions in mind.
Since it was first tested on the annual policy priorities list in 2007, the share of Americans who view dealing with global warming as a top priority has slipped from 38% to 25%. Democrats (38%) are far more likely than Republicans (11%) to rate this as a top priority. But the decline has occurred across party lines: In 2007, 48% of Democrats rated dealing with global warming as a top priority, as did 23% of Republicans.