The conservative mantra these days is that no action can be taken to help create jobs if it would increase the deficit. They believe the public is behind them because concern is running high about the deficit. But that doesn’t necessarily mean concern about the deficit is running higher than concern about unemployment. In fact, questions that directly ask the public whether unemployment or the deficit should be the higher priority tend to return lopsided majorities saying unemployment should be the higher priority.
The public, for example, said by 64-30 in a mid-July Quinnipiac poll that reducing unemployment is more important than reducing the federal budget deficit.
Similarly, in a Bloomberg poll conducted just prior to the Quinnipiac poll, an even more overwhelming 70-28 majority said reducing the unemployment rate should be a higher priority than reducing the budget deficit.
So policymakers shouldn’t be stampeded by conservatives’ single-minded focus on the deficit. That may be their obsession, but it is not the public’s obsession. The public has other stronger priorities that policymakers ignore at their peril.
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.