It's the economy (and the deficit, and the gas prices), stupid
A Gallup poll released Thursday shows that the number of Americans citing economic issues as the country's most important problem has reached a 12-month high, with the percentages of Americans concerned about the federal deficit and gas prices also spiking.
Seventy-two percent of adults polled nationwide by Gallup from March 3 to 6 cited some sort of economic issue as the "most important problem" facing the country today. Included among those economic concerns are the economy in general, unemployment/jobs, the federal budget deficit/debt, gas/fuel prices and lack of money.
The number is the highest since Gallup's February 2010 survey, although it remains lower than the 86 percent citing economic concerns in February 2009.
The percentage of respondents citing unemployment/jobs is down to 26 percent from 35 percent in February, while the percentage citing the federal deficit/debt is up to 13 percent from 11 percent last month.
The percentage citing the federal deficit is the highest in the past decade of Gallup polling - a point that underscores the recent focus among lawmakers on Capitol Hill on reining in federal spending.
Six percent of those surveyed cited gas/fuel prices as the country's most important problem, up from one percent in February and a fraction of a percentage point around the time of the November midterms. National fuel prices now average $3.53 a gallon compared with $3.12 last month and $2.77 last year.
It's no wonder, then, that Congress has turned its focus to gas prices over the past week as lawmakers continue to battle over federal spending.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other top Republicans held a press conference Thursday at which they promoted a new House GOP plan, the American Energy Initiative, and used the issue of gas prices to criticize congressional Democrats and the Obama administration on energy policy.
"Under the American Energy Initiative, we'll work to stop government policies that are driving the price of gasoline, expand American energy production to lower costs and to create jobs, and promote our all-of-the-above strategy to increase all forms of American energy," Boehner said. "We'll also work with governors and state officials to identify ways we can help them increase energy production and to create jobs in their states."
Democrats, meanwhile, have introduced legislation that would direct the Department of Energy to tap into about five percent of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to drive down prices.
"Whether higher prices or disrupted supplies occur because of an act of God, or the actions of a Gaddafi, we should be prepared to deploy the one weapon we hold to help consumers immediately," Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement. "This bill sends a simple message to the speculators, to the OPEC cartel, to the oil companies: it is time to release our oil to help consumers at the pump."
The White House has said that any decision on whether to tap the strategic oil reserve would hinge not only on gas prices but also on whether the country's oil flow has been disrupted.
| March 10, 2011; 4:32 PM ET
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