Economy a top concern for the public

With the next presidential election right around the corner, Pew Research Center reports that the economy, health care costs and education are the public’s top priorities.

“The public’s agenda for the president and Congress is only modestly different from a year ago, but it reflects a continued evolution of the national agenda,” Pew wrote. “Improving the economy remains among the public’s highest priorities, but its prominence has waned significantly in recent years.”

According to Pew, 70 percent of Americans say the economy should be a top priority, dropping 17 percent from 2011.

Top economic issues to the public, in order, are Social Security (67%), improving the job situation (50%), the budget deficit (48%), and global trade (39%).  

While those are the top priorities for the nation, Jim Rounds, president of Rounds Consulting Group, said that Arizona is a special case.

“It’s always good to compare ourselves to the nation as a whole but we’re in a different league than most of the other states. They’re playing minor league economics when we’re in the majors,” he said.

According to Rounds, “improving the job situation” is a top priority despite the recent low unemployment rate because more jobs do not mean more quality jobs.

“We have very strong job growth and our unemployment is very low… the only thing that’s left over is the quality of jobs. It’s one thing to have a job, it’s another thing to have a job that pays 150 percent of what you would have otherwise gotten because the economy is doing well,” Rounds said.

Domestic issues are becoming increasingly important to Americans with health care costs (69%) and education (68%) becoming the second and third top public priorities.

On the other hand, security concerns are becoming less important to Americans.

According to Pew, “most [Americans] (67%) continue to say defending the country from future terrorist attacks is a top priority, though this is one of the lowest shares citing the issue since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and far lower than the roughly eight-in-ten who called it a top priority through much of the early to mid-2000s.”

Pew has also seen a divide between what the political parties think are the top priorities.

Health care costs, improving the educational system and taking steps to make Medicare financially sound are larger majorities for Democrats than Republicans but defending the country from terrorist attacks is a top priority for Republicans.

However, both parties say the economy is the top issue.  

It touches everybody’s lives, it impacts everything from work to the roads that we drive on to our ability to get a raise one year to go on vacation. Economic issues impact everything so it will come up on the list quite a bit, but we have different economic issues here,” Rounds said.

Rounds said that in Arizona the biggest concerns are how to fine tune how the state taxes and spends on workforce issues to create a positive return on investment for taxpayers.

Emily Richardson

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