Public’s 2019 Priorities: Economy, Health Care, Education and Security All Near Top of List

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 24, 2019) –At the outset of Donald Trump’s third year in office, the public’s to-do list for the president and the 116th Congress spans domains with the economy, health care costs, education and preventing terrorism all cited as top priorities by majorities of Americans, according to a new national survey by Pew Research Center.

The public’s agenda for the president and Congress is only modestly different from a year ago, but it reflects a continued evolution of the national agenda.

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Improving the economy (70% top priority) remains among the public’s highest priorities, but its prominence has waned significantly in recent years. In 2011, following the Great Recession, 87% called it a top priority. And as public ratings of the employment situation have grown increasingly positive, 50% now say improving the job situation should be a top priority; in each of the previous 10 years, majorities cited jobs as a top priority, including 84% who said this in 2011 and 68% who said this as recently as 2017.

Most (67%) continue to say defending the country from future terrorist attacks is a top priority, though this is one of the lowest shares citing the issue since the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks and far lower than the roughly eight-in-ten who called it a top priority through much of the early-to-mid 2000s.

As economic and security concerns have become less prominent, the domestic issues of reducing health care costs (69% top priority) and improving the educational system (68%) now rank among the top tier of public priorities. About two-thirds also say that taking steps to make the Social Security (67%) and Medicare (67%) systems financially sound are top priorities for the country.

The survey finds that Republicans and Democrats continue to stake out markedly different priorities for the country.

Majorities of both parties place top priority on strengthening the economy, but a significantly larger share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (79%) than Democrats and Democratic leaners (64%) say this.

The pattern is the reverse when it comes to reducing health care costs, improving the educational system and taking steps to make the Medicare system financially sound; in all three cases, larger majorities of Democrats than Republicans call these issues top priorities for the country.

As the public stakes out their agenda for the president and Congress, they increasingly see a big difference in what the two parties stand for. For the first time since the question was first asked more than two decades ago, more than half (54%) now say there is a great deal of difference in what the Democratic and Republican parties stand for, compared with smaller shares who say there is a fair amount of difference (30%) or hardly any (13%). The share who see a great deal of difference between the two parties is up from 45% who said this in 2015 and from just 35% who said this in 2007.

In a divided Washington, the public has low expectations for partisan cooperation in the coming year. About seven-in-ten (71%) think Republicans and Democrats in Washington will bicker and oppose one another more than usual this year; just 21% expect them to work together more than usual. This is one of the most pessimistic year-ahead outlooks over the past several administrations, matching the 71% who expected more partisan opposition in 2015, following the 2014 midterm elections. Majorities of both Republicans (78%) and Democrats (67%) think partisans in Washington will bicker and oppose one another more than usual this year.

The survey was conducted Jan. 9-14 among 1,505 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.0 percentage points for results based on the full sample.
Read the report: http://www.people-press.org/2019/01/24/publics-2019-priorities-economy-health-care-education-and-security-all-near-top-of-list/