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Americans Want Congress, Obama to Tackle Economic Issues

Americans Want Congress, Obama to Tackle Economic Issues

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans place the highest priority on domestic issues -- particularly those related to economic matters -- when asked to rate how important each of 15 issues is for the president and Congress to deal with this year.

How important is it to you that the president and Congress deal with each of the following issues in the next year -- is it extremely important, very important, moderately important, or not that important? January 2011

The Jan. 7-9 Gallup poll finds 52% of Americans saying it is extremely important for the president and Congress to deal with the economy this year, slightly more than the 47% who rate unemployment this way. Forty-four percent of Americans view the federal budget deficit and corruption in government as extremely important priorities.

The highest-ranking international issue is terrorism, with 40% of Americans rating it as extremely important; the situations in Afghanistan (32%) and Iraq (27%) are much lower priorities.

The environment is the lowest-ranked issue overall, with 24% saying it is extremely important.

These results are generally in line with what Gallup measured prior to last year's congressional elections, when the economy and jobs were the issues voters said were most important to their vote. They also echo the recent trend in Gallup's most important problem question.

Among party groups, the economy is the top-ranked issue, or tied for the top. Unemployment is no worse than the fourth-ranked issue among Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Republicans and Democrats differ significantly in the importance they assign to the federal budget deficit and illegal immigration (higher Republican priorities), and healthcare, education, and the environment (higher Democratic priorities).

Issue Importance, by Party (% Extremely Important), January 2011

Gallup asked this issue priority question at least yearly from 2001-2007 before the current update. The full trends are available in the downloadable PDF document at the bottom of this page. Among the notable changes are:

  • Concerns about terrorism have dropped significantly, establishing a new low of 40% extremely important in the current poll. The prior low was 47% in April 2005, and terrorism scored above 50% in 8 of the 10 measurements prior to this year.

2001-2011 Trend: How important is it for the president and Congress to deal with terrorism?

  • The 44% mentioning the federal budget deficit as an extremely important issue is the highest Gallup has measured, up slightly from 42% in January 2007 and up significantly from an average 31% from 2002-2004.

2002-2011 Trend: How important is it for the president and Congress to deal with the federal budget deficit?

  • The situation in Iraq has fallen to the bottom half of issue priorities, with 27% now saying it is extremely important; prior to this year, it had usually been at or near the top of the list since early 2003, including a high of 62% in the last measurement, in early 2007.

2003-2011 Trend: How important is it for the president and Congress to deal with the situation in Iraq?

  • The passage of healthcare legislation last year has reduced the issue's importance slightly, to a new low of 40%. From 2003-2007, an average of 47% said healthcare was an extremely important issue for the president and Congress.
  • Taxes rank as a low priority for Americans (27% extremely important), but this is typical (average 29% extremely important from 2001-2005) rather than a response to Congress' recently addressing the issue with the late 2010 bipartisan tax deal.


The relatively lower priority Americans place on international matters and non-economic domestic issues underscores the primacy of the economy as a political issue. When the economy is struggling, it tends to crowd out other concerns in Americans' minds, but the current poll makes it clear where Americans want the Congress and President Obama to focus their efforts.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 7-9, 2011, with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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