Scott Eells

The president of the United States of America has been called the most powerful person on Earth. This year, an election year, the people of the United States will discuss, sometimes passionately, what American citizens feel the president for the next four years should know, believe and be. Ten issues will be at the front of that discussion. See the list on

Balanced budgets
Scott Eells

According to, the national debt is now more than $15.2 trillion. There seems to be little dispute that large deficits and debts are unsustainable and little agreement in how to bring the budget back into balance. Conservatives call for cutting spending, particularly spending on entitlement programs, while liberals want the wealthy to pay higher taxes to cover the deficits.

Charles Dharapak, Associated Press

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports unemployment in December 2011 fell to 8.5 percent, the best it's been since February 2009. Whatever the cause, the unemployment epidemic has compounded the effects of a recession and a housing crisis for millions of American families. For those families, this may be the only issue that really matters.

Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

Sparks could fly in the 2012 presidential debates over immigration. Several states, including Utah, have adopted laws to compensate for a lack of federal immigration enforcement. Federal lawsuits have often followed. With the left asking for a plan to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants and the right pushing for tighter border security, immigration remains a divisive issue.

Foreign policy
Alex Brandon, Associated Press

The Commander-in-Chief elected in 2012 will be immediately called upon to make wartime decisions. Afghanistan aside, tender relationships with countries like Russia, France, North Korea, Iran and China will require the president to use extreme care and extraordinary wisdom. Complicated worldwide economic and climate change issues only intensify the need for strong leadership.

Mel Evans, Associated Press

Kaiser Family Foundation estimates health care costs have tripled since 1990. The controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010, colloquially known as "Obama Care", has struggled with its popularity and may be unconstitutional. Rising costs, a growing number of uninsured Americans and the conservative call to "repeal and replace" the 2,700- page PPACA law will drive the debate in 2012.

Role of Government

As long as there have been governments, people have debated the role of government. Some think people can generally take care of themselves and so the need for government is small. Others argue that society benefits from a broad definition of "provid(ing) for the general welfare" that includes income redistribution and social programs.

This age-old debate has been revived in recent movements of the small-government Tea Party and big-government Occupy Wall Street groups. Parallel to the ongoing debates about health care, states' rights, entitlement spending, capitalism and taxation, the American people will decide what they believe about the role of government with their vote for president in 2012.

Hans Pennink, Associated Press

Marriage sets itself apart from other political issues in its ability to get people out to vote. As some states try to pass referendums defining marriage between a man and a woman, others will be seeking to legalize same-sex marriage. Unlikely voters on both sides of the issue have historically voted in greater numbers when marriage is on the ballot. This will be a welcome boost to one presidential hopeful, which one depends on which states have marriage on the ballot.

Supreme Court
Alex Brandon, Associated Press

In the near future, the Supreme Court will address immigration, states' rights, health care, affirmative action and same-sex marriage. If that's not enough to get some attention, four of the current justices are in their 70s and likely nearing retirement. The decisions of the Supreme Court, and the strong chance that more than one will be replaced in the next four years, make the Supreme Court a hot topic for this election cycle.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

As with jobs and health care, energy is an issue that motivates voters from their wallets. The L.A. Times and CNBC are forecasting the highest gas prices on record in 2012. Meanwhile, natural gas discoveries that could lower prices and add stability have also created some environmental concerns. Americans will be asking candidates how to develop a sustainable, domestic energy portfolio while keeping gas prices as low as possible.


American education systems continue to struggle keeping up internationally and the No Child Left Behind law requires all students to be proficient in math and reading by 2014. The president- elect will have the daunting task of making American schools competitive again.

Beyond these top 10 issues are dozens more from gun control to research ethics and from terrorism to media standards. As voters familiarize themselves with the candidates positions on issues most important to them, they will be able to make an informed decision about who they believe should be the president of the United States.