Energy Problems & Budget Deficit Among Public's Priorities for Obama, Congress

A new study from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press says the economy, jobs, terrorism, Social Security, education, Medicare and the national budget deficit are top of mind for Americans.

Such topics as lobbyists, trade policy and global warming are not even close.

The list is certainly interesting to consider in light of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address. But it could also be informative to journalists who need to know what is on the minds of readers, viewers and listeners.

The Pew study said:

"The public has shifted the emphasis it assigns to two major policy issues: dealing with the nation's energy problem and reducing the budget deficit. About half (49%) say that dealing with the nation's energy problem should be a top priority, down from 60% a year ago. At the same time, there has been a modest rise in the percentage saying that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority, from 53% to 60%.

"Other policy priorities show little change from a year ago. For example, despite the ongoing debate over health care reform, about as many now call reducing health care costs a top priority (57%) as did so in early 2009 (59%). In fact, the percentage rating health care costs a top priority is lower now than it was in both 2008 (69%) and 2007 (68%).

"In addition, the percentage placing top priority on providing health insurance to the uninsured stands at 49%. That is little changed from a year ago and off its high of 61% in January 2001. Notably, there is now a wider partisan gap in opinion about this issue than for any of the other 20 issues in the survey: fully 75% of Democrats rate providing health insurance to the uninsured as a top priority compared with just 26% of Republicans.

"More than six-in-ten Americans say securing the Social Security system (66%) and securing the Medicare system (63%) should be top priorities for Obama and Congress. About as many (65%) say that improving the educational system should be a top policy priority. For all three items, public evaluations are not significantly different than they were one year ago."
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    Al Tompkins

    Al Tompkins is The Poynter Institute’s senior faculty for broadcasting and online. He has taught thousands of journalists, journalism students and educators in newsrooms around the world.


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