Survey Finds Health Care, Unemployment, Immigration, Education Top List

By Newsroom America Staff at 30 Jan 2017

(Newsroom America) -- Health care, unemployment, immigration, and education top a lengthy and varied list of the American public's policy priorities for 2017, according to a new national survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

While the public is eager for Washington to deal with these issues, they are not confident that much progress will be made. In order to explore the public's agenda for the next year, the poll accepted up to five volunteered issues from each respondent.

"Our unique, open-ended format shows that the average American is concerned about a number of policy issues and wants the new government in Washington to work hard to address them," said Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center.

"However, Americans are not very optimistic that much will be accomplished, especially for long-standing issues like poverty, racism, and the environment."

Key findings from the survey include:

The top issue for Republicans (47 percent), Democrats (40 percent), and independents (43 percent) is health care.

Unemployment is mentioned by 37 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of Democrats, and 26 percent of independents. The economy, in general, was mentioned by roughly a fifth, regardless of party.

While there is partisan agreement on some of the country's leading priorities, Republicans and Democrats disagree on the importance of other issues. For example, the second most common response from Republicans is immigration, named by 40 percent. In contrast, only 15 percent of Democrats listed immigration as one of their top five concerns.

Coming up with a solution to the public's priorities should be given a substantial amount of effort by the government, according to most Americans. However, the poll did not investigate what people specifically want to see accomplished for any of these problems. It is likely that, while health care is the top issue for both Democrats and Republicans, each group would prefer different resolutions.

Few expect much will be accomplished to solve these problems in the next year. The public views some problems as more difficult to deal with than others. Americans have little confidence in the government's ability to address poverty, racism, and the environment. There is more optimism for progress to be made on unemployment, immigration, and terrorism.

Fewer Americans regard the country as heading in the wrong direction than a year ago, although it remains a majority. In 2015, 69 percent said the country was on the wrong course and 30 percent said it was headed in the right direction. Now, 56 percent consider the country heading in the wrong direction and 42 percent say it is on the right track.

Republicans and Democrats have both had an about-face regarding the direction of the country. In the wake of Donald Trump's election as president, 66 percent of Republicans say the country is headed in the right direction, up from 18 percent last year. Only 22 percent of Democrats now regard the country as being on the right course, down from 42 percent last year.

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