More than anything else, voters would be happiest if Congress and President Obama focused on creating jobs, according to the latest United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll. And they don't care if lawmakers use Republican or Democratic ideas to do so.
By more than three to one, Americans said they would be "very pleased" or "somewhat pleased," rather than "somewhat disappointed" or "very disappointed," if the chief executive and lawmakers worked together to create jobs—either by cutting taxes and regulations or by increasing federal spending on infrastructure projects. Both options were the most popular of the six policy goals offered to respondents, although majorities also said they'd be happy if the government reduced the deficit, passed an immigration overhaul that included a pathway to citizenship, and expanded gun-sale background checks.
The survey is a wake-up call for Congress. Even as lawmakers have spent most of the year fighting over items ephemeral to the health of the economy, overwhelming numbers of voters would prefer they concentrate their efforts on boosting job growth.
And somewhat surprisingly, a relatively slimmer majority of adults also said they would be pleased if Obamacare was repealed, an encouraging sign for opponents of the law as they continue efforts to wipe it off the books. Most surveys show that adults are unwilling to back an outright repeal of the health care reform, preferring instead to either fix the law or keep it as is. But of the options listed in this survey, repeal was also the least popular of the bunch.
Remarkably, respondents showed little variation when they were asked if they preferred cutting taxes (a conservative priority) or boosting spending (a liberal preference) to create jobs. Seventy-five percent said they would be pleased or very pleased if jobs were created by reducing taxes and regulation, while 77 percent said the same about increasing investment in infrastructure projects. Fewer than 25 percent of people said they would be unhappy if lawmakers achieved either goal.
The numbers varied little across demographics such as race, college education, and age. Republicans and Democrats showed a greater preference for their respective priorities, but large majorities of each party supported both.
A proposal to expand background checks for gun purchases also registered broad support. Seventy-four percent of adults said they would be happy if such a proposal passed, compared with only 22 percent who said they would be unhappy. Remarkably, 56 percent of people said they would be "very pleased" if lawmakers approved the legislation—the highest level of support for any proposal. Despite its popularity, the Senate still failed to pass such a measure earlier this year by a filibuster-proof margin. Several endangered red-state Democrats, such as Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, withheld support.
The measure splits along partisan line. Nearly three-fourths of Democrats said they would be "very pleased" if the gun-control measure passed; only 12 percent said it would make them unhappy. Just 38 percent of Republicans said they would be "very pleased" about passage.
Still, a majority of GOP voters, 66 percent, said approving the legislation would at least "somewhat please" them. Only 32 percent said they would feel "somewhat disappointed" or "very disappointed" if it became law.
Nearly as large a group of adults said they would be happy if lawmakers approved immigration reform—including a pathway to citizenship and tighter border security. Sixty-six percent of respondents felt that way, compared with 28 percent who said they would be disappointed. Among Republicans, the split is 57 percent in favor to 38 percent opposed. Even one of the most conservative demographics—white men without a college a degree—showed a willingness to accept the reform. Twenty-seven percent of them said they would be "very pleased," compared with 25 percent who said they would be "very disappointed."
The two least popular options were top GOP priorities: reducing the federal deficit and repealing the Affordable Care Act. Asked how they would feel if the deficit were lowered by a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, 54 percent of adults they would be pleased. Forty-one percent, meanwhile, said they would be disappointed.
The split was even smaller when asked about repealing Obamacare, standing at 52 percent to 40 percent. But, even still, the majority support should encourage Republicans, who for weeks have been confronted with poll after poll showing majorities of adults preferring that Congress not repeal the troubled law. Crucially, those surveys asked respondents if they'd prefer to fix the ACA instead of repealing it; this poll offered no such distinction.
Forty-two percent of whites said they would be "very pleased" if the law were repealed; only 24 percent said they'd be "very disappointed." Even among blacks, the most Democratic-leaning of all groups, the difference was nearly even. Forty-four percent said they'd be happy if lawmakers repealed the law; 49 percent said they'd be unhappy.
The United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll surveyed 1,003 adults from Nov. 21 to Nov. 24. It has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.
This article appears in the December 3, 2013 edition of NJ Daily as Poll: Washington Should Focus on Jobs, Not Health.