Poll: Unemployment Is Most Important Problem; Obama's Jobs Bill Favored

A new poll shows that unemployment is the most important problem on the minds of most Americans, and a plurality think the Republican Party would do a better job than the Democratic Party of handling the most important issue. The news bodes ill for President Obama's re-election prospects, but more American's favor than do not favor passage of Obama's jobs plan.

Both polls were conducted by Gallup after Obama gave a speech, last Thursday, before a joint session of Congress, to introduce his jobs bill.

When asked “what do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” a plurality, 39 percent, of respondents answered “unemployment.” The “economy in general” was a close second, with 28 percent.

Fourteen percent cited “dissatisfaction with government,” and 12 percent thought that the “federal budget deficit” was the most important problem facing the country.

The economy had been Americans’ top concern until now. This marks the seventh time this year that Gallup has asked that question, but this is the first time that unemployment ranked higher than the economy.

The same poll asked respondents, “which political party do you think can do a better job of handling the problem you think is most important – the Republican Party or the Democratic Party?”

A plurality, 44 percent, said the Republican Party would do a better job, while 37 percent answered Democratic Party. Of those who said that unemployment was the biggest problem, there was a statistical tie, with 42 percent answering Republican Party and 40 percent answering Democratic Party.

Among those who said the economy in general is the most important problem, however, Republicans have a 26 point advantage over Democrats, 57 percent to 31 percent, in their perceived ability to deal with the problem.

Congressional approval, overall, remains low, however, with only 15 percent of Americans approving of the way Congress is handling its job.

With high unemployment, currently at 9.1 percent, the news suggests that Obama would face difficulty getting reelected next November. The Congressional Budget Office said in a report released last month that unemployment is expected to remain above 8 percent through 2012.

Obama is currently traveling around the nation to promote his jobs bill. In better news for Obama, another poll conducted by Gallup, shows that a plurality of Americans support Obama's jobs bill.

Forty-five percent of Americans want their member of Congress to vote in favor of Obama's jobs bill. Thirty-two percent want their Congressperson to vote against it, while 23 percent said they don't know, or refused to answer the question.

The results, understandably, fall along party lines with 70 percent of Democrats and only 19 percent of Republicans favoring the bill. Among independents, 44 percent favor Obama's jobs bill, while 32 percent would prefer that their Congressperson vote against it.

The poll on the most important problem facing the country was conducted with a random sample of 1,017 adults on September 8-11. The sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points.

The poll on Obama's jobs bill was conducted with a random sample of 1,010 adults on September 12-13. The sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points.