Washington (CNN) - More than half of all Americans think unemployment is the most important economic issue facing the country, according to a new national poll.
Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey say joblessness is the most pressing economic issue right now. That's more than double the 22 percent who listed the federal budget deficit as the most important economic issue.
The poll's Thursday release comes as the government reports that the number of Americans filing first time claims for unemployment insurance surged to a two-month high last week. The Labor Department says there were 482,000 initial jobs claims filed in the week ending on January 16, up 36,000 from the week before.
"Today's new jobless figures may not come as a surprise to most Americans," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Seven in ten Americans say the economic news they have heard recently is bad news - and a third say they have heard no good economic news at all in recent weeks."
The survey also indicates that eight in 10 say that the economy is in poor shape, and only 37 percent believe it will get better within the next two years. More than four in 10 feel it will take more than three years for the economy to bounce back.
So who's to blame for the tough economic times? It seems more people blame the Republicans than the Democrats, although that margin is shrinking.
According to the poll, 39 percent say the Republicans are responsible for the current economic problems, with 32 percent saying it's the Democrats fault. Just over one in four say both parties are equally responsible. The 39 percent of people questioned who say the GOP is to blame for the current economic problems is down from 50 percent last January, when President Barack Obama took over in the White House.
"The White House has repeatedly made the case that they weren't responsible for the economic mess Obama inherited last year," says Holland. "That argument made sense to most Americans back then and many still agree with it today. But as time goes on, more Americans seem to be wondering what the party in power on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue has done to help the economy."
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted January 8-10, with 1,021 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn