The Importance of Economic Issues

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted a national survey of 1,008 adults using AmeriSpeak to gain insights into Americans’ evaluations of the economy.

With mixed views of the national economy and their own financial situation, Americans want priority given to several different economic problems. In the latest poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the public sees protecting Social Security and reducing unemployment, poverty, and the federal budget deficit as most important to them personally.  

A majority of both Democrats and Republicans favor raising the federal minimum wage, but there are partisan divisions on whether it is the government’s responsibility to deal with income inequality. Legal immigration is considered good for the economy, while the arrival of undocumented immigrants is seen as harmful to the economy.

Public opinion surveys regularly ask the public to name the most important problem facing the country. The top response is typically the “economy.” But what aspect of the economy are Americans referring to when they say the most important problem is the economy?  

The poll examines the public’s view of several economic issues by asking how important each issue is to them personally. This detailed assessment of different economic topics provides policymakers with information about the public’s economic priorities, rather than simply looking at opinions on the economy overall.

More than 80 percent describe protecting Social Security and reducing unemployment as extremely or very important to them. Reducing poverty, cutting the federal budget deficit and increasing wages to keep up with the cost of living are each important to about 7 in 10 Americans.

Not unexpectedly, affluent Americans attach different levels of importance to some issues than do those with lower incomes. For example, 63 percent of people with incomes under $50,000 regard income inequality as important; 44 percent who make more than $100,000 agree. However, there is no disparity by income on the significance of some other issues. About three-quarters of the public, high- and low-income earners alike, say reducing the federal budget deficit is important.  

The nationwide poll was conducted January 14-17, 2016, using the AmeriSpeak Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,008 adults.

Three Things You Should Know
From The AP-NORC Center’s Poll on Economic Issues
Among all American Adults:

  1. Large majorities see several difference economic problems as important for them personally, with Social Security, unemployment, and poverty at the top of the list.
  2. Americans’ views of immigrants’ economic impact are determined by whether or not the immigrants are documented. Fifty-three percent think legal immigration benefits the economy, while 57 percent say illegal immigration is detrimental to the economy.
  3. Most Americans favor increasing the federal minimum wage: 52 percent support an increase to $12 an hour, and 34 percent favor raising it to $15 an hour.