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Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Poll: Jobs Should Be Next President's Priority; Tax Fairness? Not So Much

Jul 30, 2012
Originally published on July 30, 2012 5:31 pm

Nearly every major poll indicates that the top issues for voters are jobs and the economy. Making the wealthy pay more in income taxes? Not so much, at least according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.

An excerpt from Gallup:

"Creating good jobs, reducing corruption in the federal government, and reducing the federal budget deficit score highest when Americans rate 12 issues as priorities for the next president to address. Americans assign much less importance to increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and dealing with environmental concerns."

In fact, higher taxes for the rich was given the lowest priority of the dozen issues, Gallup reports.

Respondents rated "extremely important" the following issues: "creating good jobs" (48 percent of resondents); "reducing corruption in the federal government" (45 percent); "reducing the federal budget deficit" (44 percent); "dealing with terrorism and other international threats" (42 percent).

After a number of other issues, it jumps down to "dealing with environmental concerns, such as global warming," (21 percent). The same percentage — 21 percent — cited "increasing taxes on wealthy Americans" as an extremely important issue.

The poll would seem to indicate that the fairness arguments made by President Obama and his campaign aren't top concerns for voters.

What's really striking about the poll results is that not only was this true of voters in the aggregate but of self-identified Obama voters, too.

Among Obama supporters, only 32 percent said raising taxes on the wealthy should be a top priority of the next president. That also put it dead last on the list of 12 issues among that demographic.

The top issue in terms of presidential priorities for self-identified Obama supporters was available and affordable health care, at 50 percent. Jobs, better public schools and safeguarding Social Security and Medicare tied at 48 percent.

Meanwhile, cutting federal deficits was viewed as the top priority for the next president by 51 percent of the respondents who described themselves as supporters of Republican Mitt Romney. Job creation was next at 48 percent and reducing federal government corruption and dealing with terrorism were tied at 45 percent.

So why does Obama keep talking about raising tax rates on the wealthy when even most of his supporters, according to Gallup, don't see that as among the top priorities for the next president?

A possible answer is that in an election that's expected to be very close, every voter matters. Clearly, there are a number of voters in Obama's base who do believe higher taxes for the wealthy is a priority.

So a message that appeals to those voters could prove important in getting to victory. So long as it doesn't turn off enough other voters.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.