ECONOMY AND ENERGY (NOT DEFICITS)…. We’ve been talking quite a bit lately about how Congress — including some Democrats — inexplicably chooses to prioritize the deficit over economic growth and job creation. As these hand-wringing lawmakers see it, what the “American people” really want is less spending and a lower deficit, which is why even some nervous Dems are afraid to vote for an important, job-saving bill.

With this in mind, note that a new New York Times/CBS News poll asked respondents, “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?” The results (pdf) weren’t close:

Economy/Jobs: 40%
Oil Spill in Gulf: 13%
Health Care: 5%
Budget Deficit/National Debt: 5%
War/Iraq/Afghanistan: 3%
Immigration: 3%
Moral Values/Family Values: 2%

Remember, as far as the Senate is concerned, members can’t even vote on a bill related to the economy and jobs, because the minority is worried about the deficit. But when asked what matters most, the public — you know, the folks who’ll vote in November — consider the economy and job creation eight times more important than the deficit.

It seems like the kind of detail nervous politicians would take seriously.

The poll also offered some interesting results on energy policy. For example, respondents were asked, “Which comes closer to your view: 1. Government should do more to regulate the off shore drilling practices of oil companies in order to protect the environment OR 2. Government should place fewer regulations on the off shore drilling practices of oil companies in order to make it easier for them to increase oil production?”

A whopping 76% backed more regulation, as compared to 18% who favored fewer regulations. Even among self-identified Republicans, it was two-to-one: 61% want more regulations, 30% want fewer. Likewise, the moratorium on new drilling enjoys broad support, with nearly two-thirds of the country agreeing that it’s a “good idea.”

But this was my favorite question in the poll:

“Which of the following three statements comes closest to expressing your overall view of U.S. energy policy? 1. On the whole, the U.S. energy policy works pretty well and only minor changes are necessary to make it work better. or 2. There are some good things in the U.S. energy policy, but fundamental changes are needed, or 3. The U.S. energy policy has so much wrong with it that it needs to be completely rebuilt.”

A 58% said they want to see “fundamental changes,” while an additional 31% wants to see the energy policy “completely rebuilt.” That’s a stunning combined total of 89% of the public that wants a significant overhaul of the energy status quo.

President Obama agrees. A House majority agrees. Will the Senate have the ability to act?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.