Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Americans' Agenda for 2010

Americans perception of today's affairs and recent important events, such as the failed terrorist attack on Christmas Day, the President’s State of the Union Address, and the persistent effects of the recession form their agenda for 2010. Although the public's top priorities for the Administration and Congress laid out by recent surveys show that priorities remain similar to last year (jobs and the economy), there have been some notable shifts. These shifts will have an impact on what will gain enough public pressure to get legislation passed in an election year. Let's take a more careful look at how Americans think about the economy, terrorism, health care, and immigration.

Reflecting on Americans' concerns, Obama promised that jobs will be the number one priority in 2010, and demanded a job-creating bill from Congress. According to a poll conducted during the State of the Union Address, mention of the ‘job’s bill’ was one of the president’s highest scoring lines across all political factions. When asked which bills of those mentioned in the SOUT should be prioritized, 70% of respondents chose a job-creating bill, and 49% were in favor of a deficit reduction plan (NPR Survey). At the same time, slightly more voters think that Obama and the Democrats are more concerned with bailing out Wall Street (49%) rather than creating jobs for ordinary Americans (41%), according to a Democracy Corps survey.

Jobs and the Economy remain at the top, but the worse is behind us.

Strengthening the economy and addressing unemployment are the public’s top priorities for the President and Congress to address in 2010 similar to 2009. When asked from a list of issues which they consider a top priority, 83% chose the economy, and 81% "improving the job situation", according to a recent Pew Researce Center survey. Another survey by NPR, shows that when respondents were asked to choose the first and second top issues on which Obama and Congress should focus, the economy and jobs were again placed at the top of the list (63%), while health care came second with far less consideration than the economy (26%). More than two thirds of voters though say that the worst of the economic crisis is behind us.  In addition, "the proportion of voters saying that things have already started to improve is up, and now stands at roughly four-in-ten in both polls. And when asked if things are better or worse than they were one year ago the proportion saying worse has dropped since July from a slim majority to only 41 percent in the NPR poll", according to analysis by Democracy Corps of the NPR survey and one of their own.

Shifts in Priorities from 2009:
Defending the U.S. against risks to terrorism became is more important now than in 2009. With 80 percent of respondents considering it a top priority, defending the U.S. against terrorism is the third most important issue, according to Pew. This increase in concern could be related to the failed Christmas Day terror attack and the media coverage it received, leaving many holiday travelers and American security in a panic.

There were also other important shifts in other publicly identified national priorities, namely, reducing the budget deficit and dealing with the nation’s energy problem. Since last year, there has been a 7 point increase, from 53% to 60%, in respondents who consider reducing the budget deficit a top priority. This issue was ranked a top priority irrespective of partisan affiliation. In a different trend, confronting the U.S.’s energy problem declined 11 points amongst those who considered it a top priority in 2009. The decline in public concern for resolving the energy crisis, from across all political affiliations, may be due to the overriding of economic concerns (Pew Research Center).

Although there has not been much of a shift in opinion in 2010 regarding handling climate change since 2009, the issue has gone down 10 points on the list of top priorities since 2007. Today only 28 percent of Americans consider climate change a top priority for nation. Unsurprisingly, there is a large partisan divide amongst those who consider climate change a top priority:
o 43 % of Democrats
o 25 % of Independents
o 11 % of Republicans


Source: Pew Research

Health Care
When it came to reducing health care costs, 57% of respondents  considered it a top priority, slightly down from 2009 (59%). Additionally, only 49% of respondents were in support of expanding health insurance, down from 52 percent one year ago (Democracy Corps). Overall, Americans seem pessimistic that health care legislation will pass this year (60%). This doubt that such a bill could pass may stem from the apparent tension in the senate debates, where there is a great partisan divide on the issue. 75% of Democrats rate providing health insurance to the uninsured as a top priority as opposed to 26% of Republicans (Pew Research Center).

Immigration
In addition to addressing the nation’s other priorities, President Obama made clear his ongoing commitment to immigration reform in the State of the Union Address; although he did not offer any specific solutions. In Americans’ mind, immigration is an important issue but is topped by the economy, jobs, securing the country against terrorism, and Health Care. Dealing with illegal immigration ranked number 18 (40%) among the public’s top priorities for 2010. Most voters (eight in ten) also continue to say that illegal immigration is a problem (Benenson Strategy Group/America’s Voice 2009). Almost half say it is a serious problem. Voters are more skeptical about Congress’ ability to handle multiple issues at once, but a majority of voters (52%) view immigration reform as a high priority for Congress and believe Congress can take on CIR in 2010 (down from 59% in May 2009).

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Tags: Opportunity, immigration, jobs, Economy, public opinion, obama, sotu (all tags)

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