Poll: Americans Want Washington Focused on Jobs, Not Health

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds least popular priorities are reducing deficit, repealing Obamacare.

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - NOVEMBER 07: A job seeker holds employment papers as she attends the Choice Career Fair on November 7, 2013 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The federal government, Bureau of Labor Statics, is scheduled to release the jobs report, tomorrow, which should give economist an idea about the state of the economy before and during the fiscal crisis that partially shutdown the government for 16 days, threatening the economic recovery. 
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
Dec. 2, 2013, 4:29 p.m.

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.

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