Americans weigh in on fixes for the U.S. economy

Job seekers arrive at the National Career Fairs' San Francisco South Career Fair on July 16, 2012 in San Mateo, California.

Kai Ryssdal:  The latest snapshot of the presidential campaign, specifically how the president's doing, comes courtesy of a CBS News-New York Times poll out last night. He and Gov. Romney are in a statistical dead heat, and to no one's surprise, the economy's hurting Mr. Obama pretty good. So if 'it is the economy, stupid,' what is gonna fix it?

We're gonna take a couple of minutes now to talk to Frank Newport, he's the editor-in-chief of Gallup, and he's here every week for our Attitude Check -- what American really think about things.

Hey Frank, how are you?

Frank Newport: I'm fine, thank you.

Ryssdal: So you guys went out and asked people with the caveat that of course 'it's the economy stupid,' what can be done, should be done to fix the economy? What did people say?

Newport: Well, just like Benjamin Braddock was told in "The Graduate," it was one word -- not plastics, mind you -- jobs, J-O-B-S. That's why we hear it, I guess, so much on the campaign trail from both Romney and Obama. By a significant margin, the number one thing Americans said to do to fix the economy is to create more jobs. 

Ryssdal: Now was there a follow-up question that said: How do you want to create more jobs?

Newport: We have actually asked that a number of times in the past, we certainly have looked at it, and the number one response we get on that is bring jobs back from overseas, no more outsourcing. So you can see why the Obama campaign, speaking of politics, is trying to hit on Romney for outsourcing. Beyond that what Americans tell us in terms of creating jobs depends on where you come from. Republicans -- their number one response other than outsourcing is to get the government off the back of business, less regulation. Democrats on the other hand say we like government to spend more money, ask them to do more in terms of stimulus spending.

Ryssdal: Although, it's worth digging into this data a little bit. Creating more jobs was a bipartisan response, right, Republicans and Democrats equally said that's the biggest thing.

Newport: Absolutely, there was very little difference on that, that's universal. Create more jobs is a way to heaven, so to speak -- political heaven, economic heaven -- how's that?

Ryssdal: Number two was decreasing taxes which was, you know, not all that surprising, but it beat out deficit cutting, which is of course all the rage in Washington.

Newport: That's right, balancing the budget, controlling spending was mentioned in the top five, but actually the idea of decreasing taxes or giving tax breaks to certain groups of people was higher in terms of what Americans spontaneously told us about how to improve the economy. 

Ryssdal: And just to sort of give some inkling to folks of what this data looks like -- creating better jobs was 28-30 percent and then it drops rapidly down into single digits, nothing is more important than that. 

Newport: That's right. If you stop a random sample of Americans and say, 'excuse me, but how do we fix the economy?' That's the dominant response. 

Ryssdal: I can see it now, 'excuse me sir.'

Newport: Hey, that's what we do for a living here at Gallup. There's wisdom out there in the people and we think sometimes it's good to just ask them, you know, how would you fix this problem? We all agree it's a big problem.

Ryssdal: Frank Newport, he's the editor-in-chief at Gallup. There is more on the segment that we do with him each week, it's called Attitude Check. Check out the data here. Frank, thanks a lot.

Newport: My pleasure. 

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.

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