U.S. Religious Groups: Fixing Economy is Washington's Top Priority

Religious groups in America disagree on a wide range of issues, but one thing they readily agree on is that the government's current top priority is to fix the nation's economy, according to a recent Pew Survey.

Within a narrow range – from 83 to 89 percent – all four religious groups that were surveyed overwhelmingly said strengthening the nation's economy is a top priority for the Obama administration and Congress, according to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life analysis.

Among the four groups, white non-Hispanic Catholics were most likely (89 percent) to say strengthening the nation's economy is a top priority. They were followed closely by white mainline Protestants (88 percent), unaffiliated Christians (85 percent), and lastly white evangelical Protestants (83 percent).

For white evangelical Protestants, they instead indicated that they prefer the government focusing on improving the job situation over strengthening the economy.

Eighty-five percent of white evangelical Protestants think this should be a top priority for the government. Eighty-two percent of white non-Hispanic Catholics, 77 percent of white mainline Protestants, and 72 percent of the unaffiliated agree.

Defending the United States against terrorism, dealing with U.S. energy problems, and reducing crime were selected by the religious groups as the next top priorities for the government.

For the sixth priority, a large gap appeared between white evangelical Protestants and the other religious groups. Fifty-nine percent of white evangelical Protestants think the government should make dealing with moral breakdown a top priority. Only 40 percent of white mainline Protestants, 37 percent of the unaffiliated, and 33 percent of white non-Hispanic Catholics agree.

The religious leaders rounded out the top eight priorities for the government with protecting the environment and dealing with illegal immigration.

The analysis is based on a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press which also noted in its report that although it is not unusual for the American public to prioritize domestic over foreign policy, there was a stark imbalance this year compared to 2008.

Slightly more than seven-in-ten Americans (71 percent) believe President Obama should focus on domestic policy, while only 11 percent prioritize foreign policy. Last January, however, 56 percent said domestic policy is most important while 31 percent said President Bush should focus on foreign policy.

But it's no surprise Americans are more concerned with domestic policy given the latest report by the government that shows the unemployment rate has hit a 25-year high with a record-high of 12.5 million people unemployed, according to CNNMoney. The unemployment rate has spiked from 4.8 percent in February 2008 to 8.1 percent in February 2009.

The survey was conducted Jan. 7-11, 2009 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life used the Pew Research Center's data to release on Wednesday its own chart on what religious groups feel should be the government's top priorities.

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