February 6, 2013

The U.S. Focuses on Its Homefront

Americans worry about terrorist threat, but want President Obama to tackle economy first

By Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center

Special for YaleGlobal

A second term for any American president allows the incumbent to press reset buttons on foreign and economic policy. He can double down on what’s worked or pursue a new path on past policies that have proven ineffective or politically unpopular.

But Washington’s new direction is unclear. President Barack Obama will spell out a game plan in his annual State of the Union address. Until 12 February, observers are left to read the tea leaves found in the president’s second inaugural address and the public statements of nominees to fill key cabinet positions in the second term, such as Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense–designate Chuck Hagel.

So far, the Obama administration signals intent to focus on domestic concerns. The economy (86 percent of the American public say it is a “top priority”), jobs (79 percent) and the budget deficit (72 percent) dominate concerns, according to a January Pew Research Center survey. Immigration (39 percent) and gun control (37 percent) may be at the center of the current political debate in Washington, but the US public assigns them less priority. Nevertheless, separate surveys show strong support for passage of some kind of gun control and immigration reform.

Read the full commentary at YaleGlobal Online