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International Tension, Jobless Rate Lead Poll of U.S. Worries

Special to The Times

International tensions and domestic unemployment are Americans’ major concerns, according to the latest Gallup Poll released here today. Named next most often is the high cost of living, followed by government spending, including the federal budget deficit.

Twenty-three percent of the 1,528 adults who responded during in-person interviews cited fear of war and international unrest as the most important problems facing the nation, with unemployment named by 21%, high living costs by 11% and government spending by 10% of those polled.

Concern over government spending has declined from 18% in January, after having increased sharply from a year earlier when 12% of those responding cited it as the nation’s top problem.

Thirty-seven percent of the public now believes that the Republican Party can better handle the problem they consider most important, while 31% believe the Democrats are best equipped to tackle their major concern. Throughout 1984, the public was evenly divided between the two parties as being superior in this respect, with the GOP reaching ascendancy last January. For each of the two preceding years, the Democratic Party was the public’s consistent choice.

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The economy, in general, continues to trouble 8% of those polled, with 6% citing poverty and hunger, 6% concerned by drug abuse, 6% worried by a perceived moral and religious decline and 4% anxious about crime.

Unemployment, while still a serious problem, has declined slowly in the public’s view as the nation’s top concern. The current figure of 21% closely matches the 20% recorded in January, the lowest since the 1981-82 recession.

In sharp contrast, in October, 1982, 62% named unemployment the major problem facing the nation. International tensions were mentioned in that survey by merely 6%, only one-fourth the current level.

The survey was conducted in more than 300 scientifically selected localities across the nation during the period May 17-20.

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