Source: Pew Research (click to explore the interactive)

President Barack Obama tonight delivers the first State of the Union address of his second term. The speech is expected to include an ambitious list of policy goals and priorities – from boosting the economy and reforming the nation’s immigration system to advocating for new policies on gun control and climate change.

The speech is widely considered to be among the most significant of Obama’s remaining political career. That’s because second term presidents generally only have a limited window of time – as little as year – to accomplish their big-ticket goals before the lame duck syndrome sets in.

In the run-up to the address, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press last month asked more than 1,500 adults throughout the U.S. about their own policy priorities. They then compared the results to responses going back 12 years, and also divided responses by party affiliation (Republican, Democratic, Independent), age, and gender .

Not surprisingly, the economy and jobs were the top two overall priorities this year (as they have been for the last five years).  But for the first time, reducing the budget deficit took third place (72 percent of respondents overall labelled it a top priority, as opposed to just over half in 2009).

Other major priorities among all respondents this year included defending against terrorism, securing social security, and improving education. Interestingly, strengthening the nation’s gun control laws was one of the biggest divides along party lines, with 69 percent of Democrats and only 22 percent or Republicans labeling a top policy concern. There was also a major party split on the issue of protecting the environment, with 69 percent of Democrats and only 32 percent of Republicans identifying it as a major concern.

What Policies Do Americans Care Most About? 12 February,2013Matthew Green


Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email:; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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