Unemployment is the problem, but Americans see no clear solution

Sep. 8, 2011 at 7:40 AM ET

Pew Research Center /

We know Americans want Washington to do something about the nation’s unemployment crisis.

But while it’s easy to identify the problem, the public is deeply divided on what actions the government should take to try to get millions of people back to work.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak to a rare joint session of Congress Thursday to lay out his latest plan for lowering the nation’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate and boosting an economy that is barely growing. His exact plan has not been revealed but it is expected to include a combination of increased spending on infrastructure, extended tax cuts for workers and extended unemployment benefits.

But a new poll from Pew Research Center and The Washington Post suggests that none of the ideas is a guranteed clear winner in the eyes of the public.

For example, 36 percent of Americans think additional infrastructure spending would do a lot to help the nation’s job situation, while 21 percent think an infrastructure plan wouldn’t do anything at all.

When it comes to cutting taxes on businesses, as many leading Republicans suggest, there’s a similar pattern: 31 percent say it would do a lot to create jobs, while 27 percent think it wouldn’t do anything at all.

It's the same story when people were asked whether budget cuts designed to reduce the deficit would help improve the nation's job situation. 

 Obama and his would-be Republican challengers, who held a nationally televised debate Wednesday, are turning their focus to jobs after a summer in which Washington was preoccupied by a battle over cutting the federal budget deficit.

But all along, it appears more Americans have been fretting about the job market than the deficit issues.

More than four in 10 Americans said the job situation is the economic problem that worries them the most, according to Pew, while only 2 in 10 said it was the federal budget deficit.

The percentage of people citing job worries has swelled in recent months, as the job market has remained tight and hiring has seemed to slow.

Last month the economy created no jobs, according to a government report issued Friday. That leaves at least 14 million Americans looking for work.


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