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The Public’s Priorities: Jobs vs. the Deficit

There is no question that the public has become more sensitive to the deficit in the last year. This partly reflects the fact that the deficit has grown and the public doesn’t like deficits. But it also reflects a feeling among many that government spending has not been effective since the economy remains so weak.

In light of these views, it’s interesting to note that the public’s deficit sensitivity does not translate into a view that deficit reduction is a more important priority than jobs and the economy. In a mid-December CNN poll, the public was asked what should be more important for the Obama administration—reducing the deficit even if that slowed down economic recovery or stimulating economic recovery even if that meant less deficit reduction. By 57-40, the public chose stimulating economic recovery.

When the choice was creating more jobs even if there was less deficit reduction or reducing the deficit even if unemployment remained high, the result was even more lopsided. By 3:1 (74-25), the public favored creating more jobs.

This suggests that while policymakers should be sensitive to public concern about the deficit, they should not forget that jobs are still the top priority.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.