President Obama will lay out his vision for the year ahead to a joint session of Congress in tonight’s State of the Union address. In a survey released last week, the American public let it be known what they want the president and Congress to work on this year: the economy and jobs. Fully 87% of Americans say strengthening the nation’s economy should be a top priority and another 84% say improving the job situation is a top priority. Among all 22 issues tested, these two were far and away the most cited as a top priority. And unlike many other issues, strengthening the economy and improving the jobs situation are leading goals for Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. While improving the economy has long been a top policy priority, the number citing jobs as a top priority has risen 23 points since January 2008. Other issues a large majority of Americans say should be top policy priorities in 2011 include defending the country from terrorist attacks (73% say top priority), improving the educational system (66%), making Social Security financially sound (66%), reducing the budget deficit (64%), making Medicare financially sound (61%) and reducing health care costs (61%). Policies that rank at the bottom of the public’s policy docket include global trade issues (34%), improving public transportation (33%), dealing with global warming (26%) and dealing with obesity (19%). Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.