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Saturday, 22nd January 2011

Economy, Jobs Top Public's Policy Agenda; No Consensus about Future of Health Care Legislation

Economy, Jobs Top Public's Policy Agenda; No Consensus about Future of Health Care Legislation

Source:  Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

The public's policy agenda is again dominated by the economy and jobs with other major issues viewed as less important. Fully 87% say that strengthening the economy should be a top priority for the president and Congress and 84% rate improving the job situation as a top priority, by far the highest percentages among 22 issues tested.

And with the economy continuing to struggle, optimism about the country's long-term future has declined. Currently, 54% say they are optimistic about the long-term future of the United States, down from 61% last April. In 1999, 70% said they were optimistic about the country's future.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 5-9 among 1,503 adults, finds that concern about the budget deficit has increased in recent years. Currently, 64% view reducing the budget deficit as a top priority, up slightly from 60% a year ago, and 53% in 2009. Yet reducing the deficit continues to lag far behind the economy and jobs among the public's priorities.

This also is true for policy goals related to health care, whether reducing health care costs (61% top priority) or revising last year's health care law (56%). The public continues to be divided over what it wants to see done with the health care law -- 37% favor its repeal, while nearly as many (35%) want the law expanded, and 20% would leave it as it is.

As President Obama prepares for his State of the Union speech next week, 34% say his address will be more important than previous years' speeches, 11% say it will be less important and 49% say it will be about as important as past State of the Union addresses. These opinions are little different from expectations about last year's speech; in January 2010, 39% said his State of the Union would be more important than past addresses.

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