Even as politicians try to absorb the impact from the latest jobs figures, the number of Republicans who said the economy and business are their top issues has grown, according to a Gallup poll released on Friday.
According to Gallup, 36% of Republicans in April said the economy and business were their top issues, up from 32% in March. That is roughly the same as those who say government spending and power are their top issues, 37%, and far higher than those who make social issues and moral values the most important factor, 15%.
The findings come as the latest jobs numbers were released on Friday giving something for all sides. The Labor Department said that employers added a net of 244,000 jobs, but the jobless rate went up to 9%, from 8.8% in March. Because of the brighter hiring picture, more people returned to the work force seeking jobs, which explains the rising unemployment rate even though the number of jobs rose.
The Gallup finding helps explain the playing field as Republicans gear up and enter a more serious phase of their presidential nominating cycle. The number of contenders remains large, at more than a dozen or so, but the first debate, drawing five candidates, was held on Thursday night. That was akin to the first pitch of the new baseball season; it doesn’t matter who came to play the game but it did matter that it signaled “Game On,” for a lengthy and complicated period before the 2012 election.
The poll also shows how difficult it may become in knitting together a party that can successfully support a candidate against President Obama.
The low poll numbers mean that those candidates, who were hoping to use the GOP’s stand on social values as a springboard to the nomination, will likely have to broaden their outreach. There is also a clear divide between moderate Republicans and conservatives. Those calling themselves moderate were more likely to chose the economy while conservatives favored the issue of government spending.
The poll was conducted April 15-20, before news of the U.S. raid that led to the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
More than 1,000 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, were surveyed. The maximum margin of error for the overall sample is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Gallup also said that some results were based on an aggregate sample of 3,304 Republicans, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.