Americans want Barack Obama to focus less on the economy

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Barack Obama, whose presidential campaign made fixing the economy its main issue, needs to focus more on other things. That's the opinion expressed in a surprising poll Gallup released today.

"More Americans choose the economy (41%) than any other issue as the top priority for Barack Obama, but that is down sharply from last November (64%)," Gallup says. "By contrast, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the federal budget deficit and health care have grown in perceived importance over the past year."

Health care, which was barely on the public's radar last fall, has shown the biggest increase, from 5 percent to 17 percent as it became the focal point of the Obama domestic agenda. The federal deficit soared from 7 percent to 14 percent, while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rose from 11 percent to 18 percent. Energy dropped from 6 percent to 2 percent.

The poll results reflect a growing optimism about the economy on Main Street. U.S. consumer confidence rose for the first time since 2007, according to Nielsen Co. The stock market has rallied strongly until quite recently, with the S&P 500, Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq each posting double-digit gains for the year. Economists also expect the U.S. economy to have grown at its fastest pace in two years. when third-quarter GDP numbers comes out Oct. 29.

"Consumers increasingly recognize that the economy is beginning to recover and will make progress in the year ahead," said Sara Johnson, an economist with IHS Global Insight, in an interview with DailyFinance, "At least they recognize that the crisis is over."

Of course, the public remains skeptical that the good times are anywhere near back. Prices for gold, long a refuge for investors in the time of crisis, have topped $1,000 an ounce. The housing market has yet to recover in some hard-hit regions, and unemployment is expected to top 10 percent before year-end. More than 7 million jobs have evaporated since the start of the recession.

Obama also continues to have his hands full with the politically divisive issue of health-care reform and with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have cost more than $800 billion. Some experts have argued that the President is trying to deal with too much at once.

"Investors are concerned that the administration is trying to juggle too many bowls at once," says Joseph Brusuelas, director at MoodysEconomy.com, who argues that the swoon in the stock market was due to a weak dollar. "From a macro perspective, there is some risk that the economy will hit a double-dip [recession]."

With all this fear and uncertainty, it's little wonder that Obama's job approval rating is near a 52-week low.

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