Poll: Health Care, Education Increasingly Important to Americans

(CN) – While the news of the day may be focused on the government shutdown and illegal immigration, a growing number of Americans say the president and Congress should be prioritizing health care and education in 2019, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday.

Despite the swings in the stock market at the beginning of this year and fears from investors that the U.S. may be headed for an economic slowdown due in part to international trade wars, a recent survey shows that most Americans are happy with the current state of the economy and are shifting their focus to health care and education.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans say that reducing health care costs should be a top priority and 68 percent say improving education should be a primary concern for Congress and President Donald Trump in his third year of office, according to a Pew survey of more than 1,500 Americans conducted Jan. 4-14.  

These issues are about to edge out the economy as Americans’ overall top priority.

A separate Pew study recently found that 51 percent of Americans say the state of the economy is either good or excellent, which is among the highest ratings in nearly two decades. With that growing confidence, attention to the economy is decreasing.

Seventy percent of the public still says improving the economy should be a top issue for the government, but this is down from 2011 after the Great Recession, when 87 percent said that strengthening the nation’s economy should be a high priority.

Concerns about jobs in particular have also fallen. Half of Americans say improving the job situation should be a top priority, compared to 84 percent in 2011 and 68 percent in 2017.

By contrast, in 2011, 61 percent of Americans said health care should be a priority in 2011, and 66 percent said education should be a top concern.  

For Democrats, health care is the top priority. Seventy-seven percent of Democrats or those who lean Democratic told Pew researchers this month that health care costs are a top issue, compared to 59 percent of Republicans who said the same.

Democrats are also more likely to prioritize education than Republicans. Seventy-six percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans say improving the educational system should be a top priority for the government in 2019.

Overall, health care and education are now higher priorities for Americans than defending the U.S. against terrorism, according to the Pew report.

Preventing terrorism was the number two priority for Americans in 2011, when 73 percent said that should be the government’s primary concern. Today, 67 percent of Americans consider that a priority.

Terrorism prevention is still the number one priority for Republicans. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans told Pew researchers that defending against terrorism should be a primary concern, compared to 79 percent of Republicans who said that the economy should be a top priority.

Fifty-three percent of Democrats say preventing terrorism is a top priority.

Immigration is also a higher priority for Republicans than it is for Democrats. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say it’s a top priority, while 40 percent of Democrats say the same. Overall, 51 percent of Americans say immigration is a top concern.

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