For most of this year, American voters have prioritized jobs as the #1 issue in politics. This month, according to Gallup, jobs drops to #2, but that puts the economy back to the first position, which if not similar is at least closely related. The most interesting change, though, comes in the new #5 issue:
After two months as the clear No. 1 perceived problem facing the country, unemployment/jobs dipped to No. 2 in May, while “the economy” in general moved back into the top position. At the same time, Americans grew more likely to name immigration (including illegal immigration) as the nation’s most important problem, moving that issue into fifth place. …
The heightened concern about immigration comes as a new Arizona law designed to address illegal immigration has drawn nationwide attention. There is increased concern both across the country and across the political spectrum. However, increased mentions of immigration are most pronounced in the Western states, surging from 2% in April to 16% in May, as well as among Republicans and conservatives.
The exchange between the top two issues doesn’t really mean much. The concern for the economy almost certainly relates to jobs; that is the personal connection most Americans have to the economy. For that matter, immigration is also in part a concern about jobs as well as national security. Regardless of which angle one takes on it, the economy is what concerns most Americans in a year where the economic recovery looks wan and fragile.
The uptick in prioritization for immigration was dramatic. Five times more people gave it as the most important issue facing the nation, going from 2% in April to 10% in May. That brings immigration just below health care (15%) and corruption (12%), and just above the federal deficit (9%) and several points above terrorism (4%).
That last comparison is itself surprising. Immigration spiked up eight points, obviously in response to the controversy over the new Arizona law. In contrast, terrorism barely budged, even though Gallup conducted the poll just days after the botched attempt to blow up Times Square. Instead of shooting up the list of priorities, terrorism is in a three-way tie for seventh place, along with family decline and lack of money. Have we turned the corner and become inured to terrorist attacks — or would it have made a difference had the bomb succeeded?