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Public Wants Congress To Focus On Jobs And Energy More Than Immigration

The public views tougher regulations on financial institutions as an important priority for Congress, but far more want Congress to take action on the job situation and energy policy. In thinking about financial regulation, as many say they worry that the government will go too far in regulating financial markets, making it harder for the economy to grow, as say they worry that the government will not go far enough, leaving the country at risk of another financial crisis.

Congress's overall job ratings remain abysmal. More generally, most Americans express little or no confidence in Washington to make progress over the next year on the biggest issues facing the country. Finally, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, who began making the rounds on Capitol Hill last week, draws mixed ratings from the public, while nearly half offer no opinion about her Senate confirmation.

These are the principal findings from a new weekly survey with a special focus on the themes and issues directly related to Congress. The Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, sponsored by SHRM, will complement the Pew Research Center's ongoing comprehensive surveys on politics, the press, the economy and international affairs. The survey, conducted May 13-16 among 1,002 adults, also finds:

Congress's Priorities -- Jobs, Energy

  • 81% say it is very important for Congress to address the job situation over the coming months, reflecting consistent concern among the public about the economy's large job losses. There is no significant difference across party lines.
  • 67% say it is very important for Congress to address the nation's energy needs, including 75% of Democrats, 64% of independents and 61% of Republicans.
  • 59% say that addressing immigration policy is very important, with Republicans 20 points more likely to say this than Democrats (69% vs. 49%).
  • Only about a third (32%) says it is very important for Congress to address climate change in the coming months, including 47% of Democrats, 29% of independents and 17% of Republicans. This is consistent with earlier Pew Research surveys that show the public putting a relatively low priority on addressing climate change.

Concerns about Stricter Financial Regulations

  • 54% say it is very important for Congress to act on stricter regulations for financial institutions and markets; 65% of Democrats see this as very important, compared with 53% of independents and 40% of Republicans.
  • When asked what worries them more about financial regulation, 46% say their greater concern is that the government will go too far in regulating financial institutions and markets, making it harder for the economy to grow while 44% say they worry more that the government will not go far enough, leaving the country at risk of another financial crisis.
  • 63% of Republicans say they are more concerned that the government will go too far in regulating financial institutions, while 60% of Democrats say they are more worried the government will not go far enough. 

Continued Weak Ratings for Congress

  • 13% say Congress is doing an excellent or good job, while 38% say it is doing only fair and 44% rate Congress's job performance as poor. These ratings are largely unchanged from mid-March, when 17% said Congress was doing an excellent or good job.
  • Republicans and independents give Congress equally negative job ratings. Majorities of Republicans (57%) and independents (55%) say Congress does a poor job.
  • Even among Democrats, only about a quarter (23%) says Congress does an excellent or good job.
  • 39% say Barack Obama is doing an excellent or good job, which is virtually unchanged from 40% in mid-March; 31% rate the job he is doing as only fair, while 27% say poor. 

Little Confidence Government Will Make Progress

  • Just 10% say they have a lot of confidence that the government in Washington will make progress over the next year on the most important issues facing the country; 32% say they have some confidence, 31% say not much and 25% say no confidence at all.
  • About two-thirds of Democrats (66%) have at least some confidence the government will make progress on major issues over the next year. That compares with 35% of independents and just 22% of Republicans.  

Mixed Views of Kagan

  • Initial reactions to Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court are comparable to public views about the nomination of John G. Roberts to be the court's chief justice in September 2005. Currently, 33% say the Senate should confirm Kagan, 21% are opposed, while 46% have no opinion.
  • 54% of Democrats say Kagan should be confirmed, compared with 19% of Republicans and 28% of independents. There is no gender gap in reactions to Kagan's nomination; 34% of women and 31% of men say she should be confirmed.

View the topline and survey methodology at 

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