Poll: Social Issues Unimportant to Most Voters

Abortion, birth control and gay marriage ranked lowest on issues of importance to registered voters, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

Only 39 percent of the 3,008 respondents said abortion was "very important" to their vote, in the April 4-15 poll. Thirty-four percent ranked birth control, and 28 percent ranked gay marriage, as very important. The margin of error is 2.1 percentage points.

The issues that voters care about the most are the economy (86 percent), jobs (84 percent), the budget deficit (74 percent), health care (74 percent) and education (72 percent).

The biggest change in voter priorities since 2010 has been on the issues of immigration, Afghanistan and terrorism. Those who said that immigration is very important have dropped 16 percentage points (from 58 percent to 42 percent). Concerns about Afghanistan has dropped 13 percentage points (from 59 percent to 46 percent), and concerns about terrorism dropped 12 percentage points (from 71 percent to 59 percent).

There has been a slight increase (five percentage points) in those who see budget deficits as very important, and a slight decrease in those who say the environment (six percentage points) and taxes (seven percentage points) are very important.

There are some partisan differences. Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to cite the budget deficit (86 to 63 percent), taxes (74 to 60 percent) and abortion (51 to 40 percent) as issues that are very important. Democrats, on the other hand, were much more likely than Republicans to say that the environment (74 to 26 percent), education (86 to 63 percent), birth control (47 to 31 percent) and Medicare (77 to 62 percent) are very important issues.

On some issues, gender made a difference as well. Women were more concerned about education (79 to 65 percent), birth control (40 to 27 percent), health care (80 to 69 percent) and abortion (44 to 33 percent). Men, on the other hand, were more concerned about energy (66 to 58 percent) and the budget deficit (77 to 72 percent).

Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have heavily emphasized economic issues in their campaigns. The Obama campaign recently released a web video, called "Forward," which emphasizes economic gains and job growth since the 2008 financial collapse. The Romney campaign has a website called "Obama Isn't Working" that argues Obama policies have worsened the economy.

Earlier this year, the issues of abortion, birth control and religious freedom made front-page news after the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule for the new health care law that would require employers, including most religious employers, to cover contraception, sterilization and some abortifacient drugs in their insurance coverage. Some religious groups that had moral objections to these services objected to being forced to pay for them. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is planning two weeks of protests this summer to raise awareness of the religious liberty issues in the HHS mandate.

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