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Poll: Terrorism fading as most important issue for voters

After the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, terrorism was top of mind for voters. But now voters say the economy is the most important issue.

In the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, terrorism was most important issue to many voters in our December NBC News|SurveyMonkey election polling. Given the importance of economic issues to voters, and with the primary season in full swing, we revisited whether terrorism is still the most important issue to most voters, or whether the importance of the economy has rebounded. The answer depends upon voters' partisanship.

Results from the most recent NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll conducted online from February 1 to February 7 suggest that the importance of terrorism has fallen considerably. Nearly a third -- 32 percent -- of voters now state that jobs and the economy is the issue most important to them, compared to the 15 percent who say terrorism.

These percentages are in stark contrast to voters’ responses in mid-December, when 28 percent of voters thought terrorism was the most important issue, compared to 23 percent who listed the economy. The chart below graphs the weekly importance of issues between December 14 and February 7. Concerns about terrorism have declined steadily, while the importance of the economy has risen.

Republicans are more concerned about terrorism than Democrats, but even Republicans’ concerns about terrorism have dropped significantly. In mid-December, nearly 40 percent of Republicans listed terrorism as the issue most important to them, but the percentage is only 24 percent in our most recent poll. The economy is now the most important issue to a plurality of Republicans (34%), but terrorism remains a high priority. More Republicans list terrorism as the most important issue (24 percent) than those who listed immigration and health care (both at 12 percent).

Among Democrats, the importance of jobs and the economy continues to dominate voters’ minds, and the importance of terrorism has plummeted. During the week of December 14 to December 20, 18 percent of registered Democrats listed terrorism as the most important issue – making it the second most important issue for Democrats. As of last week, however, terrorism is only the fifth most important, with only 8 percent identifying it as the most important issue. For Democrats, the issue of terrorism is now behind the economy (30 percent), health care (19 percent), the environment (16 percent) and education (15 percent).

Graphics by Sam Petulla.