Four Weddings or a Funeral?

President Obama has yet another opportunity to lead, unite Americans, and work together with Republicans in Congress to achieve common goals.  He also has the opportunity to reject bipartisanship and pursue policies considered  priorities only by his own party.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds that majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree that four policies are “absolute priorities” for the President and Congress to tackle this year.

  1. Creating Jobs – Even as public opinion on the economy improves, creating jobs is seen as an absolute priority by 85{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Americans, including 84{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans, 83{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents, and 87{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats. Slightly fewer Americans call this an absolute priority this year than last year, when 91{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} said this was a top priority.
  2. Defeating and dismantling ISIS – Nearly three-fourths of adults (74{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}), including 87{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans, 64{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents, and 71{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats, say this is a priority this year for the President and Congress.
  3. Reducing the federal deficit – More than seven in ten adults (71{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}), including 84{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans, 82{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents, and 53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats, say reducing the deficit should be an absolute priority for this year. In 2014 a similar 74{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Americans saw this as a priority.
  4. Reforming Social Security and Medicare – Often referred to as the third rail of American politics, a majority of Americans (54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) consider reforming these programs a top priority this year. Majorities of Republicans (51{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}), Independents (55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}), and Democrats (53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) agree.

There are a two other economic policies that get close to majority support from all political groups:

  • Simplifying the tax code is popular even if it is not one of the four policies that have majority support across the political spectrum.  Nearly two-thirds (65{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Republicans and 55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents say simplifying the tax code is an absolute priority, and 47{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats agree.
  • Funding infrastructure projects is seen as an absolute priority by 45{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans, 52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents, and 53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats.

Signing trade agreements with selected Asian and Pacific Rim countries, on the other hand, is met with a bipartisan shrug, as only 22{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans, 19{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents, and 21{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats call this a top priority.

The policies seen as absolute priorities for this year by 50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} or more Republicans, Independents, and Democrats are color coded, sorted, and shown below.

 

Top Absolute Priorities for This Year by Party

Clearly Congress and the President have a full plate of priorities with bipartisan support, but as the chart shows, many in the President’s party would choose a different set of priorities.

  • Reducing income inequality is considered a top priority by two-thirds (67{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Democrats and half (50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Independents, but fewer than one in five (19{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) Republicans agree.
  • Increasing the minimum wage is prioritized by 65{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats, 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents, and only 18{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans.
  • Creating a pathway to citizenship is a priority for a majority (52{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Democrats, but only 37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents and 24{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans.
  • Addressing climate change is seen as a top priority of 53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Democrats, 33{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents, and 13{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Republicans.

As the President delivers his State of the Union Address, listen for talk of job creation, ISIS, the deficit, and entitlement reform to confirm the optimism of the barely one-third (35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Americans who say divided government works well for the country.  Listen for talk of income inequality, the minimum wage, a pathway to citizenship, and climate change to prove right the majority (59{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) who say divided government does not work.

 

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