Concern over economy hits one-year high

The public's concerns over economic issues hit a 12-month high in a poll released Thursday, with 72 percent citing some economic area as the most important problem facing the U.S. 

A new Gallup survey shows that the nation's focus has not rested as heavily on the economy since Feb. 2010, when Congress was dealing with the federal healthcare law and high unemployment. The result is still below the 10-year peak of 86 percent in Feb. 2009, when lawmakers debated the economic stimulus plan. 

Concerns increased even after February's jobs report showed the most positive results in months. The results underscore the pressure on President Obama and lawmakers on Capitol Hill as they negotiate a measure to fund the government through the end of the year and weigh options to bring down the nation's federal deficit and debt. 

The Senate failed to advance two separate proposals that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. Lawmakers are stuck at an impasse, even though some have argued that passing a spending plan is crucial to providing the government with a greater level of certainty to address the economy. 

The top three economic issues as rated by the public are the economy in general (28 percent), unemployment (26 percent) and the federal budget deficit and debt (13 percent). 

The public is not nearly as concerned about two other related issues dominating the news: the unrest in the Middle East and rising gas prices. Only 6 percent named gas prices as the most important concern, and less than 1 percent cited the pro-democracy protests in the Middle East. 

The Obama administration and Congress have spent significant time considering ways to engage unstable countries in the Middle East and whether or not the U.S. should open its strategic petroleum reserves as a response to rising prices at the pump, which have been tied to the uncertainty in the region.

Gallup surveyed 1,021 adults between March 3-6. The poll's margin of error is four percentage points.