Iraq, Terrorism, Corruption Top List of the People's Priorities

by Frank Newport and Joseph Carroll

Democrats tend to give higher importance to most issues than do Republicans

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- More than 6 in 10 Americans say the situation in Iraq is extremely important for the president and Congress to deal with in the next year, ranking it higher than any other issue tested in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll. Americans also rate terrorism, corruption in government, and healthcare near the top of the list of issues facing the government, while they rate immigration, energy, crime, and the problems Hurricane Katrina caused at the bottom. Republicans rate terrorism and Iraq as the most important priorities, while Democrats say Iraq and healthcare. In general, Democrats tend to assign higher importance to each issue tested in the poll.

Overall Results

For the first time in 12 years, Democrats are in control of both the House and the Senate, as the 110 th Congress gets underway. The Democratic leadership has made decisions on what it considers to be priorities for the new Congress, and has announced an extraordinary agenda for its first 100 legislative hours, although a great deal of attention has now focused on the situation in Iraq.

But what are the average American's priorities for government? Each month, Gallup asks Americans to name -- without prompting -- the most important priorities for Congress and the administration. In December, in the latest such update, Iraq was, by an extraordinarily large margin, the single issue most often mentioned.

Because concerns about Iraq in essence swamp all other issues that come to Americans' minds using this open-ended technique, it may make other issues seem unimportant to the public. Thus, the Jan. 5-7 USA Today/Gallup poll used a different questioning technique to get a sense of the priorities Americans have for their elected representatives. In this poll, respondents were read a list of 12 issues, and asked to indicate for each whether it is extremely important, very important, moderately important, or not that important for the president and Congress to deal with the issue in the next year. The basic results are as follows, rank ordered by the percentage of respondents saying each issue is extremely important (full results are presented at the end of this article).

The situation in Iraq, as one would expect, ranks as the single most salient issue in the minds of the American public, with 62% saying the war is extremely important for the president and Congress to deal with this year. Rounding out the top four priorities are terrorism, corruption in government, and healthcare, with at least half of Americans mentioning each as extremely important.

Four issues rank in the middle of the list, with roughly 4 in 10 Americans saying each is extremely important for the government to deal with this year. These include Social Security (45%), Medicare (43%), the economy (42%), and the federal budget deficit (42%). Immigration, energy policies, and crime rank slightly lower, with just more than a third of Americans rating them as extremely important. And at the bottom of the list, 28% of Americans give this rating to the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Differences by Party Affiliation

The prevalence of "extremely important" ratings is generally higher among Democrats than among Republicans. The only two issues to which more Republicans than Democrats give "extremely important" ratings are terrorism and immigration -- both by fairly small margins.  

Issue Importance by Party Affiliation
(percentage saying it is extremely important
 that the president and Congress deal with
 the issue in the next year)
Jan. 5-7, 2007

Demo-
crats

Indepen-
dents

Repub-
licans

Gap (Dems.
minus Reps.)

%

%

%

pct. pts.

Medicare

56

42

30

+26

Healthcare

59

52

40

+19

The problems caused by Hurricane Katrina

34

30

16

+18

The federal budget deficit

49

43

32

+17

Social Security

54

42

38

+16

The economy

51

40

35

+16

Energy policies

40

39

26

+14

Corruption in government

56

55

43

+13

Crime

41

37

28

+13

The situation in Iraq

61

66

56

+5

Terrorism

54

54

58

-4

Immigration

35

38

41

-6



There are differences in priority ranking within the two partisan categories. Terrorism and the war in Iraq are the dominant issues among Republicans, with 58% and 56%, respectively, saying they are extremely important for the government to deal with in the next year. Following these two issues are corruption in government (43%), immigration (41%), and healthcare (40%).

By comparison, the top issues among Democrats are the situation in Iraq (61%), healthcare (59%), corruption in government (56%), Medicare (56%), terrorism (54%), and Social Security (54%).

Bottom Line

Americans believe that dealing with the situation in Iraq should be the top priority for Congress and the president this year, followed by terrorism, corruption, and healthcare. Democrats overall tend to give higher importance to most issues than do Republicans. The reasons for this are unclear. It may be that Republicans are more positive than Democrats about the state of the nation because the GOP has been in control of the federal government until this past week, and Republicans are therefore less likely to accord problems the same sense of urgency that Democrats do. There may be underlying differences in the characteristics of Democrats compared to Republicans that make the former more likely to rate issues as important (e.g., Democrats tend to have lower average incomes). Finally, Republicans in general tend to be less likely than Democrats to expect the federal government to solve problems, which may help explain why Republicans give most issues a lower priority.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,004 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 5-7, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. 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.

6. Next, how important is it to you that the president and Congress deal with each of the following issues in the next year -- is it -- extremely important, very important, moderately important, or not that important? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Crime

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

2007 Jan 5-7

36%

36

24

4

1

 

 

 

 

 

2001 Jan 10-14

36%

47

14

2

1

B. The economy

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7

42

39

16

2

1

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jan 20-22

46

41

11

1

*

2005 Dec 9-11

47

34

17

2

*

2005 Apr 1-2

41

46

11

1

1

2005 Feb 4-6

44

44

11

1

*

2004 Dec 17-19

40

46

13

1

*

2003 Jan 3-5

49

42

8

1

*

2002 May 28-29 ^

38

45

14

2

1

2002 Jan 11-14

44

43

11

1

1

2001 Oct 5-6

54

36

10

*

*

2001 Jan 10-14

34

51

12

2

1

* Less than 0.5%

^ Asked of a half sample

C. Energy policies

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7

36

39

21

3

2

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Dec 17-19 ^

27

45

23

5

*

2002 May 28-29 ^

24

43

26

5

2

2002 Jan 11-14

25

36

34

4

1

2001 Jan 10-14

26

43

25

2

4

* Less than 0.5%

^ Asked of a half sample

D. Healthcare

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7

50

36

11

2

1

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jan 20-22 ^

47

39

12

2

*

2005 Dec 9-11 †

48

31

17

3

1

2005 Apr 1-2 †

46

42

9

2

1

2005 Feb 4-6 †

49

39

11

1

*

2004 Dec 17-19 †‡

42

45

12

1

*

2003 Jan 3-5 †‡

45

36

17

1

1

* Less than 0.5%

^ WORDING: Healthcare policy

† WORDING: Healthcare costs

‡ Asked of a half sample

E. Immigration

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7

38

31

25

6

1

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jan 20-22

31

33

30

4

1

2005 Dec 9-11

27

30

37

5

1

2004 Dec 17-19 ^

27

38

26

8

1

2002 Jan 11-14

30

33

29

7

1

2001 Jan 10-14

17

29

39

12

3

^ Asked of a half sample

F. Social Security

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7

45

35

17

2

1

 

 

 

 

 

2005 Dec 9-11

44

32

19

4

1

2005 Apr 1-2

37

42

15

5

1

2005 Feb 4-6

41

38

15

5

1

2004 Dec 17-19 ^

40

42

14

4

*

2003 Jan 3-5 ^

41

36

20

3

*

2002 May 28-29 ^

41

39

16

3

1

* Less than 0.5%

^ Asked of a half sample

G. Medicare

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that

impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Jan 5-7

43

37

17

2

1

 

 

 

 

 

2003 Jan 3-5

36

43

18

3

*

* Less than 0.5%

H. The situation in Iraq       

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7

62

28

7

2

1

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jan 20-22

58

34

6

1

1

2005 Dec 9-11

59

32

7

2

*

2005 Feb 4-6

53

36

7

3

1

2004 Dec 17-19 ^

51

39

7

1

2

2003 Jan 3-5 ^

46

35

15

3

1

* Less than 0.5%

^ Asked of a half sample

I. Terrorism

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

 

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7

55

31

12

2

1

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jan 20-22

57

32

9

1

1

2005 Dec 9-11

58

30

10

2

*

2005 Apr 1-2

47

41

10

2

*

2005 Feb 4-6

54

35

10

1

*

2004 Dec 17-19 ^

49

38

10

3

*

2003 Jan 3-5 ^

59

31

8

2

0

2002 May 28-29 ^

53

35

9

2

1

2002 Jan 11-14

62

31

5

1

1

2001 Oct 5-6

70

25

4

1

*

* Less than 0.5%

^ Asked of a half sample

J. The problems caused by Hurricane Katrina     

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

2007 Jan 5-7

28%

34

30

8

1

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jan 20-22

35%

36

25

3

1

K. Corruption in government         

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

2007 Jan 5-7

52%

31

14

2

1

 

 

 

 

 

2006 Jan 20-22

45%

37

15

2

1

L. The federal budget deficit

 

Extremely
important

Very
impor-
tant

Moder-
ately
impor-
tant

Not
that
impor-
tant

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Jan 5-7

42

34

19

3

1

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Dec 17-19 ^

35

42

18

3

2

2003 Jan 3-5 ^

32

36

25

5

2

2002 May 28-29 ^

25

37

28

8

2

2002 Jan 11-14

30

35

28

5

2

^ Asked of a half sample

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