What voters actually care about, in one chart

January 27

In advance of the State of the Union on Tuesday, the Pew Research Center has a handy poll of the public's top policy priorities:

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A few things stand out here:

1) Deficit reduction has faded a fair bit in the public's mind. That might be because the deficit is actually shrinking rapidly. But there also seems to be a partisan component here. Republicans and independents are only slightly less likely to think of the federal budget deficit as a top issue. But Democrats are much, much less likely to think so:

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Notice that there's long been a partisan component to thinking about deficits. Democrats consistently thought that the issue was a bigger problem during the Bush administration than Republicans did. Once Obama entered the White House, conservatives became the more vocal deficit hawks.

2) The economy's still the considered top problem. In the poll, 45 percent of respondents said the U.S. economy was “only fair” and 39 percent said it was “poor.” Just 16 percent said things were "excellent" or "good."

3) There are huge partisan gaps on environmental issues, tackling poverty, and tackling global warming. Democrats are much, much more likely to see these issues as top priorities than Republicans are. By contrast, Republicans are much, much more likely to consider the budget deficit, strengthening the U.S. military, and "dealing with moral breakdown" as a top issue:

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4) Infrastructure — namely, "improving roads, bridges, and public transit" — saw the biggest surge of interest this year. But it's still considered a somewhat lower-priority issue, as are things like global warming and global trade and even "illegal immigration."

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Lydia DePillis · January 27