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WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  With a new era of divided government beginning in Washington, and on the eve of President Biden’s appearance before Congress to deliver his State of the Union, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that the public’s top policy priority remains strengthening the economy: three-quarters of Americans say this should be a top priority this year.

According to the survey, conducted Jan. 18-24, 2023 among 5,152 members on Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel, there have been some notable changes in Americans’ priorities for the president and Congress to address this year. Reducing the budget deficit is now a higher priority for the public than in recent years (now 57% vs. 45% a year ago).

The change has come among members of both parties, though Republicans and those who lean to the Republican Party (71%) are far more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners (44%) to view cutting the deficit as a leading priority. Dealing with the coronavirus outbreak is now one of the lowest priorities for Americans – just 26% now say it should be a top priority for the president and Congress. It was among the top priorities in both 2021 and 2022.

Among other key findings from the report: 

Aside from the economy, no single policy area stands out. About six-in-ten rate several issues as top priorities: reducing health care costs (60%), defending against terrorism (60%), reducing the influence of money in politics (59%), reducing the budget deficit (57%), reducing crime (57%) and improving education (57%).
There are wide partisan differences over many of the policy areas included in the survey. •The largest gaps between Republicans and Democrats are on protecting the environment and dealing with global climate change. Two-thirds of Democrats say environmental protection should be a top priority, compared with 20% of Republicans. Similarly, 59% of Democrats say this about climate change versus just 13% of Republicans. •Democrats also are much more likely than Republicans to prioritize addressing issues around race (49% top priority among Democrats vs. 13% among Republicans) and dealing with the problems faced by the poor (61% vs. 30%, respectively). •Conversely, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to rate dealing with immigration (70% among Republicans vs. 37% among Democrats), strengthening the military (56% vs. 24%) and reducing the budget deficit (71% vs. 44%) as top priorities for the president and Congress.
Since 2021, reducing crime and improving education have risen as priorities for the public – especially among Republicans. •Compared with two years ago, the shares of both Republicans and Democrats who view reducing crime as a top priority have grown. Currently, 65% of Republicans and 47% of Democrats say it should be a top priority compared with 55% of Republicans and 39% of Democrats in 2021. •While a larger share of Democrats (62%) than Republicans (51%) say improving education should be a top federal priority this year, the share of Republicans saying this has increased by 8 percentage points since 2021.
For a closer look at the top policy priorities of partisan and demographic groups, see full detailed tables as well as report sections detailing priorities among age groups and racial and ethnic groups. 

The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1.7 percentage points for results based on the full sample of 5,152 respondents.

Read the full report:

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