Deficit lags as a top concern, Pew finds


McClatchy Washington Bureau

The year's big budget news may be past.

A new Pew Research Center survey found that for the first time in President Barack Obama's five years in office, "deficit reduction has slipped as a policy priority among the public."

Sixty-three percent said reducing the deficit should be a top congressional and White House priority, down from 72 percent a year ago.

The issue may be quiet for awhile. Congress passed a two-year budget plan, and deficits have been falling.

Other issues dominate Pew's annual policy priorities survey, conducted Jan. 15-19.

The public most wants action on the economy (80 percent), jobs (74 percent) and terrorism (73 percent).

Low rated priorities include global warming and trade.

There are partisan differences.

"Since 2012, more Republicans than Democrats have rated deficit reduction as a top priority; through much of George W. Bush’s presidency the partisan gap over the deficit was reversed," Pew found. "But going back 20 years, the gap has never been as large as it is today.

While the budget deficit has fallen in importance among Democrats, another policy objective – dealing with the problems of the poor and needy – has declined as a top priority among Republicans. Just 32 percent of Republicans say dealing with the problems of poor and needy people should be a top priority for Obama and Congress, down 14 points since 2013 (46 percent)."

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