The FINANCIAL -- For the first time
since Barack Obama took office in 2009, deficit reduction has slipped as
a policy priority among the public. Overall, 63% say reducing the
budget deficit should be a top priority for Congress and the president
this year, down from 72% a year ago. Most of the decline has come among
Democrats: Only about half of Democrats – 49% – view deficit reduction
as a top priority, down 18 points since last January.
The public’s agenda continues to be dominated by the economy (80% top priority), jobs (74%) and terrorism (73%). As in past years, the lowest-rated priorities are dealing with global warming (29%) and dealing with global trade (28%), according to Pew Research Center.
Deficit reduction had surged as a policy priority during Obama’s first term: Between 2009 and 2013, the share citing the deficit as a top priority rose 19 points. In the current survey, majorities of Republicans (80%) and independents (66%) continue to say reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for the president and Congress. However, just 49% of Democrats view this as a top priority, the lowest percentage since Obama took office. A year ago, 67% of Democrats rated cutting the deficit as a top policy goal.
Since 2012, more Republicans than Democrats have rated deficit reduction as a top priority; through much of George W. Bush’s presidency the partisan gap over the deficit was reversed. But going back 20 years, the gap has never been as large as it is today, according to Pew Research Center.
Fewer Republicans Prioritize Dealing with Problems of the Poor While the budget deficit has fallen in importance among Democrats, another policy objective – dealing with the problems of the poor and needy – has declined as a top priority among Republicans. Just 32% of Republicans say dealing with the problems of poor and needy people should be a top priority for Obama and Congress, down 14 points since 2013 (46%).
The survey finds that the Democratic Party holds wide leads on several key traits and characteristics – including willingness to work with political leaders from the other party (52% Democrats, 27% Republicans), and concern “with the needs of people like me” (52% Democrats, 32% Republicans). However, the Republican Party holds a 10-point lead over Democrats on dealing with the budget deficit (45% to 35%) and runs even with the Democrats on several other issues, notably the economy (42% Republican Party, 38% Democratic Party).
Most Americans do not expect improvement in relations between the parties in the coming year. About six-in-ten (59%) say they think relations between Republicans and Democrats in Washington will stay the same as they are now; 22% expect them to get worse while just 15% say they will get better. Majorities of Republicans (65%), Democrats (56%) and independents (59%) think partisan relations will stay about the same, according to Pew Research Center.
As Obama prepares for tomorrow’s State of the Union, his job rating on balance is more negative than positive. Currently 43% approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president, while 49% disapprove. While that is little changed since December, a year ago 52% approved of his job performance and 40% disapproved.
Yet Obama’s personal favorability is positive on balance, with 51% viewing him favorably and 45% expressing an unfavorable opinion. Michelle Obama’s favorability rating continues to be much higher than the president’s: Fully 68% view Michelle Obama favorably, compared with just 24% who view her unfavorably.
The survey finds that Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has become a leading Democratic figure on such issues as income inequality, is not well known among the public. Overall, more hold a favorable (27%) than unfavorable (17%) view of her, but as many as 56% are unable to offer a rating of Warren. However, among liberal Democrats, favorable opinions of Warren outnumber unfavorable ones by about ten-to-one (54% to 5%), according to Pew Research Center.