As President Obama prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address this evening, his team might want to consult our latest NBC/WSJ poll* since it paints a pretty clear picture of what the public thinks he should be spending his time on.

A majority of Americans tell us he is giving too little attention to the economy, while a plurality say he is spending too much time on the issue of health care. Almost half say he is spending the right amount of time on Afghanistan while the public is divided on the issue of climate change.


You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that fixing the economy is not only the most important thing our country needs to do, but also what Americans want most right now. It also has the merit of being something voters of all political stripes can agree on:

  • Although a majority of Democrats (61%) say the President is spending the right amount of time on the economy, the rest break more than ten-to-one that he is spending too little time on it (34% too little time, 3% too much time). Not surprisingly, Independents (57% too little, 6% too much) and Republicans (68% too little, 8% too much) express even stronger feelings on the issue.

Unlike the issue of health care, which consumed most of the 2009 calendar and not only produces a vast partisan gulf, but even fissures inside the Democratic Party:

  • A majority of Liberal Democrats (60%) and Blue Dog Democrats** (53%) say the President is giving the right amount of attention to health care but agreement ends there. By 30% to 15% Blue Dog Democrats say he is spending too much time on health care while by 21% to 18% Liberal Democrats say he is giving too little attention to the issue.

This data suggests Americans have a message for the president as they assess the state of the union: It is time for less emphasis on health care reform and instead it is time for a laser-like focus on the issue of the economy and jobs.

 *NBC/WSJ national survey conducted Jan 23-25, 2010 among 800 adults

 **Blue Dog Democrats are defined in this poll as White moderate and conservative Democrats.

(Public Opinion Strategies partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.)
Public Opinion Strategies