Voters Rate Economy as Top Issue for 2010

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Majority of registered voters say it will be extremely important to their vote

PRINCETON, NJ -- Fifty-seven percent of registered voters say the economy will be extremely important to their vote for Congress this year, making it the top issue in the 2010 elections. Healthcare, unemployment, and the federal budget deficit rank behind the economy in importance, with the environment the least important of the seven issues tested in the March 26-28 USA Today/Gallup poll.

How Important Will Each of the Following Issues Be to Your Vote for Congress This Year? Based on Registered Voters

The top issues voters say they will take into account when voting this year are similar to the ones Americans currently cite as the most important problems facing the country. But they are quite different from those in the last midterm elections, in 2006, when international matters like Iraq and terrorism topped domestic concerns in voters' minds. Today, as the United States continues its recovery from the economic downturn that developed in 2008-2009, the economy is the top issue for Democratic (58%), independent (57%), and Republican (54%) voters.

Democrats also assign a high degree of importance to healthcare and unemployment. For Republicans, terrorism and the federal budget deficit are the next-most-important issues after the economy. The deficit ranks as the second-most-important issue for independents.

Importance of Issues to Vote for Congress, by Political Party, Registered Voters

Healthcare Backlash?

Much of Congress' work this year has focused on healthcare, and Americans have been divided on the legislation both before and after it passed. But it is unclear how much of a voter backlash there may be against the Democratic Party this fall because of this issue. Republican and independent voters are much less likely than Democratic voters to say healthcare will be important to their vote for Congress. Moreover, among voters who say healthcare is extremely important to their vote, roughly equal percentages say they would vote for the Democratic (47%) and the Republican (48%) candidate in their district if the election were held today.

Democratic candidates may be more vulnerable on government spending, as both Republicans and independents rate the federal budget deficit as a more important issue than healthcare. And among those who say the deficit is extremely important to their vote, 56% would vote for the Republican candidate and 36% for the Democrat.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 968 registered voters, aged 18 and older, conducted March 26-28, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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