Priorities This Election Season

Conservatives have been doing a lot of talk about priorities for the country, but how much does it have to do with the public’s priorities this campaign season? Not much.

We’ve heard very little about the economy, for example, but a lot of vague talk about terrorism alongside plenty of general chatter about morality and religion. But the public’s number one priority by a wide margin is the economy. In the most recent USA Today/Gallup poll, 43 percent selected the economy as the number one issue for their vote, followed by 15 percent for Iraq and 14 percent for energy. Just 9 percent selected terrorism and 1 percent volunteered illegal immigration or abortion.

chart one

These poll findings suggests that injecting religion and morality into the political conversation isn’t exactly what the public has in mind. In fact, new Pew Research Center data show that the public is getting less and less interested in this approach to politics. Back in 1996, 54 percent thought churches and other houses of worship should express their views on political questions, while 43 percent thought they should keep out of political matters. Today those figures have been reversed: Fifty-two percent think churches should keep out of politics and 45 percent think they should express their views.

chart two

So here’s a novel idea: Let’s dedicate this election season to the public’s priorities, not the ideological priorities of conservatives.