NEW YORK (Reuters) - American voters overwhelmingly say lowering unemployment is more important than reducing the federal budget deficit, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday.
The poll, conducted July 13-19, showed that 64 percent of respondents thought reducing the jobless rate should be a bigger priority versus 30 percent who favored focusing on cutting the budget deficit.
A majority of Republicans — 58 percent to 38 percent — also said reducing unemployment was more important, the poll said. Republicans have accused President Barack Obama’s administration of expanding the deficit through overspending.
The federal budget deficit for 2010 is expected to be about $1.4 trillion. The U.S. unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in June.
The poll came amid a debate between those who favor more stimulus spending to boost the sluggish U.S. economy and fiscal conservatives who plan to make deficit reduction a rallying cry in November’s midterm congressional elections.
But 49 percent of voters said Obama was irresponsible for spending too much, with 45 percent disagreeing, while 53 percent said government was doing too much better left to businesses and individuals, with 39 percent disagreeing.
Seventy-nine percent believed the United States was still in a recession, up from 74 percent in May, and 52 percent said the economy was not beginning to recover. Twenty-three percent said the economy was getting better, 31 percent said it was getting worse and 44 percent saw no change.
“The public seems to be reassessing the view held through the winter and spring, when they thought economic conditions were lousy but could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now they aren’t seeing that light,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement.
While 41 percent of those surveyed said they trusted Obama to handle the economy, 42 percent trusted congressional Republicans more. Independent voters, who were important to Obama’s 2008 election, favored congressional Republicans 42 percent to 35 percent.
Voters disapproved of the way Obama was handling the economy by 56 percent to 39 percent. Among independents, 61 percent disapproved compared to 34 percent who approved.
But more people still blamed former President George W. Bush for the current economic conditions — 53 percent versus 25 percent who blamed Obama.
“Wall Street may be debating whether the country is at risk of a double-dip recession, but Main Street thinks the original one never ended. So far, voters blame Bush more than Obama, but it’s not clear how long that view will last,” Brown said.
The poll surveyed 2,181 registered voters nationwide and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.
Editing by Paul Simao