Jobs Top Priority for Likely 2012 Voters, Group’s Survey Finds

Creating jobs is a more important mission for Congress and President Barack Obama than reducing the deficit, according to a poll of likely voters in the 2012 U.S. election commissioned by a manufacturers’ group.

Sixty-seven percent of those questioned said they would prefer that politicians focus on employment, according to a report by Washington’s Mellman Group and Ayres McHenry and Associates Inc., of Alexandria, Virginia. The study, released today, was sponsored by the Washington-based Alliance for American Manufacturing.

“They want Washington to take action,” Scott Paul, the group’s executive director, said today in an interview at Bloomberg’s Washington office. “They want manufacturing to be a central part of economic renewal in the United States.”

Sixty-two percent of participants in the study said the U.S. isn’t the world’s strongest economy, up from 58 percent in the group’s report last year. Among those who didn’t think the U.S. had the world’s strongest economy, 39 percent said China is the top nation, an increase from 36 percent last year.

While China’s economy grew 9.5 percent in the second quarter, exceeding U.S. first-quarter economic growth of 2.3 percent, America’s annual gross domestic product is $14.1 trillion, almost triple China’s $4.99 trillion. China’s urban unemployment was 4.1 percent at the end of June, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security said on July 25. U.S. unemployment was 9.2 percent in June, the Labor Department said on July 8.

Chinese Trade

Fifty-nine percent of poll participants said the U.S. should use all legal means to stop unfair Chinese trade practices. That compares with 34 percent who said the U.S. should be careful in dealing with China because the nation is a U.S. creditor and any trade dispute would increase prices for imports. China remained the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasuries at the end of May, with $1.16 trillion, according to the Treasury Department.

The two consulting groups advised manufacturers to pursue their political goals with messages focused on American pride in making things rather than on statements about tax policy or human-rights abuses in China, the world’s fastest-growing economy. The alliance includes Pittsburgh’s U.S. Steel Corp. and Luxembourg’s ArcelorMittal (MT), as well as the United Steelworkers union, based in Pittsburgh, and advocates stricter enforcement of U.S. trade laws and measures that protect American producers.

Hiring Importance

The survey showed 80 percent of Democratic voters, 67 percent of Independents, 53 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Tea Party supporters said hiring was more important than closing the budget shortfall, the alliance said.

The U.S. unemployment rate rose for a third straight month in June, hiring slowed and corporate earnings stagnated. Employers added 18,000 workers to payrolls, the fewest in nine months and less than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of economists.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 3 percent this week through yesterday, its biggest three-day decline since June 3, as Republicans and Democrats sparred over separate plans to raise the debt limit and avoid a default by Aug. 2.

The consultants conducted eight focus groups in May and surveyed 1,202 likely general-election voters June 14 through 19 in a poll that had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Fifty percent of respondents said Obama is doing “a great deal” to help create American manufacturing jobs, compared with 41 percent for Democrats in Congress and 32 percent for Republicans. Forty-two percent said Obama isn’t helping to help create jobs, compared with 50 percent for Democrats and 60 percent for Republicans.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Martin in Washington at emartin21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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