CONGRESS

Poll: Americans Want Congress to Act on Jobs

Steven Shepard
Nov. 12, 2012, 4 p.m.

Last week’s elec­tions have left Amer­ic­ans more op­tim­ist­ic about the pro­spects of Pres­id­ent Obama and Con­gress reach­ing agree­ment on the most im­port­ant is­sues fa­cing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, ac­cord­ing to a United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll con­duc­ted ahead of the cru­cial lame-duck ses­sion be­gin­ning this week. That op­tim­ism is driv­en mainly by self-iden­ti­fied Demo­crats, and re­spond­ents ex­press more con­fid­ence in Obama and his party than in con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans, the poll shows.

Over­all, more Amer­ic­ans say it is “very im­port­ant” for Con­gress to “ad­dress the job situ­ation” than the oth­er four is­sues tested in the poll. The next pri­or­ity was to “im­prove pub­lic edu­ca­tion,” fol­lowed closely by “re­duce the fed­er­al budget de­fi­cit” and “ad­dress the coun­try’s en­ergy needs.” Lag­ging be­hind was “ad­dress im­mig­ra­tion policy,” al­though Amer­ic­ans re­main sup­port­ive of al­low­ing at least some il­leg­al im­mig­rants to re­main in the coun­try if they have broken no oth­er laws.

Fully 86 per­cent of re­spond­ents say that it is “very im­port­ant” for Con­gress to act on jobs, up from 79 per­cent in mid-April. An­oth­er 10 per­cent rate it “some­what im­port­ant,” while just 2 per­cent say that it is “not too im­port­ant” or “not at all im­port­ant.”

Three in four say that it is very im­port­ant for Con­gress to act on the fed­er­al de­fi­cit, about equal with pub­lic edu­ca­tion but ahead of en­ergy and im­mig­ra­tion. On the de­fi­cit, en­ergy, and im­mig­ra­tion, more Amer­ic­ans now say these are very im­port­ant than in April; the earli­er sur­vey did not ask about edu­ca­tion.

The Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll was con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al, which sur­veyed 1,000 adults on Nov. 8-11. The poll has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points.

The sur­vey is the latest in a series of na­tion­al polls track­ing the pub­lic’s pri­or­it­ies for Con­gress — and its as­sess­ment of Wash­ing­ton’s per­form­ance — dur­ing most weeks that Con­gress is in ses­sion this year. The latest poll is the first sur­vey con­duc­ted after last week’s elec­tions, which saw voters re­turn Obama, a Demo­crat­ic­ally-led Sen­ate, and a Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled House to Wash­ing­ton.

Amer­ic­ans have grown more op­tim­ist­ic that Obama and Con­gress will agree on le­gis­la­tion, the poll shows. Now, 31 per­cent say it is “very likely” that Obama and Con­gress will agree to jobs le­gis­la­tion, up from just 19 per­cent in April. The per­cent­age who rate it “some­what likely” also rose slightly, from 37 per­cent in April to 41 per­cent.

The up­tick in con­fid­ence is not only powered by more op­tim­ist­ic Demo­crats after last week’s elec­tions, al­though the per­cent­age of Demo­crats who think it is very likely that Obama and Con­gress will agree on jobs rose from 25 per­cent in April to 45 per­cent in the new poll. The “very likely” shares for Re­pub­lic­ans and in­de­pend­ents im­proved as well, al­beit mod­estly.

Amer­ic­ans are also more op­tim­ist­ic about the pro­spects of debt re­duc­tion. Twenty-two per­cent say they think it is “very likely” that Obama and Con­gress will agree to re­duce the de­fi­cit, up from 10 per­cent in April. An ad­di­tion­al 34 per­cent say that it is some­what likely, a slight in­crease from 27 per­cent in the pre­vi­ous sur­vey. The per­cent­age who say it is “not too likely” or “not at all likely” shrunk from 60 per­cent in April to 42 per­cent.

These res­ults un­der­score Amer­ic­ans’ ex­pect­a­tions, as Con­gress pre­pares to con­front the “fisc­al cliff” — the sim­ul­tan­eous ex­pir­a­tion of the Bush-era tax cuts and the auto­mat­ic im­ple­ment­a­tion of the se­quester, a com­bin­a­tion of dis­cre­tion­ary and de­fense spend­ing cuts triggered by the fail­ure of the su­per com­mit­tee on debt re­duc­tion.

Re­spond­ents ex­press con­fid­ence that law­makers will agree on im­prov­ing pub­lic edu­ca­tion, with two-thirds say­ing it is at least some­what likely. Amer­ic­ans also think it is in­creas­ingly likely that Obama and Con­gress will agree on meas­ures cov­er­ing en­ergy and im­mig­ra­tion.

Amer­ic­ans have giv­en Demo­crats a meas­ure of trust after last week’s elec­tions. Fifty per­cent say they trust Obama and con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats more “to deal ef­fect­ively with the prob­lems fa­cing the coun­try in the com­ing months,” com­pared with only 32 per­cent who trust con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans. Four per­cent trust both equally; 9 per­cent trust neither party; and 5 per­cent are un­de­cided.

The starkest di­vide on this ques­tion comes along ra­cial lines. Whites are split, with 41 per­cent trust­ing Obama and Demo­crats and 39 per­cent pre­fer­ring the con­gres­sion­al GOP. Among whites without col­lege de­grees, 41 per­cent chose the GOP, while 39 per­cent picked Obama and the Demo­crats. But white col­lege gradu­ates showed more con­fid­ence in Obama and Demo­crats than in Re­pub­lic­ans, 45 per­cent to 34 per­cent. Non­whites over­whelm­ingly trust Obama and Demo­crats by 70 per­cent to 16 per­cent.

On il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion, re­spond­ents were asked to choose among three ap­proaches, with the least-le­ni­ent plan gar­ner­ing the least sup­port: Just 17 per­cent think the U.S. should “de­port all il­leg­al im­mig­rants, no mat­ter how long they have been in the U.S.,” while 43 per­cent prefer de­port­ing some il­leg­al im­mig­rants but al­low­ing “those who have been here for many years and have broken no oth­er laws to stay here leg­ally.” A third of re­spond­ents want the U.S. to “al­low all il­leg­al im­mig­rants to stay, provided they have broken no oth­er laws and com­mit to learn­ing Eng­lish and U.S. his­tory.”

While im­mig­ra­tion was not the dom­in­ant is­sue in many of last week’s elec­tions, some have ar­gued that Re­pub­lic­ans should mod­er­ate their po­s­i­tions on the is­sue. Among self-iden­ti­fied Re­pub­lic­ans in the new sur­vey, just 29 per­cent sup­port de­port­ing all il­leg­als, few­er than the 44 per­cent who would al­low those who have broken no oth­er laws to stay. One in five Re­pub­lic­ans choose al­low­ing all il­leg­al im­mig­rants to re­main in the coun­try.

Exit polls from last week also point to risks for the GOP in pro­pound­ing an en­force­ment-only im­mig­ra­tion policy. Fully 65 per­cent of voters last Tues­day said that most il­leg­al im­mig­rants should be “offered a chance to ap­ply for leg­al status,” while only 28 per­cent said they should be “de­por­ted to the coun­try they came from.” Moreover, GOP nom­in­ee Mitt Rom­ney won only 27 per­cent of His­pan­ic voters, while just 3 in 10 His­pan­ics voted Re­pub­lic­an in House races.

 

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