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Americans Want New Congress to Fix Itself, Focus on Economy

Americans Want New Congress to Fix Itself, Focus on Economy

Story Highlights

  • About a third say Congress' top priority should be fixing itself
  • A fifth of Americans mention the economy as the top priority
  • No other single issue dominates Americans' attitudes

PRINCETON, N.J. -- After returns from Tuesday's midterm elections confirmed that the Republicans will maintain control of the House and take control of the Senate, attention now turns to what actions the new Congress should take. Nearly a third of Americans, 31%, say their newly elected representatives should not focus on a specific issue, but rather on fixing the way Congress operates, including paying more attention to constituents, compromising and getting things done.

Americans' Priorities for the New Congress

These data are from a late September survey in which Gallup asked Americans to look beyond whoever might win in their congressional district, and name what they want their representative to do on their behalf in Washington once the new Congress is gaveled into session.

Beyond the general issues relating to how members of Congress do their jobs, 20% of Americans want their elected congressional representative to focus on some aspect of the economy -- including creating jobs and increasing employment, raising wages, balancing the budget and lowering taxes.

Another 29% of Americans listed specific priorities other than those directly related to the economy -- including healthcare, immigration, education, wars, terrorism and foreign policy in general. No more than 7% of Americans mention any of these issues, suggesting there is no single non-economic issue that dominates the public's thinking at this time.

Across major demographic groups, Americans' desires for what they want their member of Congress to do are generally similar. Nonwhites are somewhat more likely to mention jobs and employment, along with schools and education, as their top priority; young people -- particularly younger women -- are more likely to mention education; seniors are more likely than young people to mention compromise and stopping wars; and those with postgraduate educations are more likely than those with high school educations or less to mention compromise. Otherwise, Americans mention the same types of priorities regardless of their demographic status.

Also surprising -- given the often acrimonious debates and arguments on issues and priorities between Republican and Democratic candidates for office -- there is little difference on most issues between Americans affiliated with the two major parties in their priorities for Congress.


Republicans maintained control of the House and gained the majority in the Senate as a result of Tuesday's midterm elections. Now the newly constituted Republican majority leaders will need to focus on what they are going to do with their new mandate from the voters. The campaigns themselves did not necessarily provide major direction for these leaders. Other than Republican candidates' tactic of tying their Democratic opponents to President Barack Obama, there was no single dominant issue in terms of what candidates emphasized on the campaign trail or in debates and advertisements.

Prior to the elections, Americans also did not overwhelmingly name any issue they wanted their newly elected representatives to focus on when the new Congress is sworn in at the beginning of the new year. Instead, many indicated that Congress' highest priority should be operating better as a body, paying more attention to constituents and cooperating more and getting things done. They mentioned economic concerns -- ranging from creating more jobs to lowering the deficit -- more frequently than others. Small segments named healthcare, immigration, education and foreign policy as their desired No. 1 focus for their representative, and some of these would be more important in some districts and states than in others. But none of these rises to the level that would suggest Americans consider it a major priority for the new Congress.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 25-30, 2014, with a random samples of 1,252 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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