Results of the study, released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, show Americans consider protecting U.S. shores from terrorists has been a top priority since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The study, conducted every four years, found 83 percent of those questioned held that opinion in 2013. While that's down slightly from a high of 86 percent in 2005, the numbers have been 80 percent or above since the category was added in 2001.
The second-highest priority for U.S. citizens in 2013, at 81 percent, was jobs. That, too, was a slight drop from a high of 85 percent in 2009, but reflects the upward trend in the category since 1997.
"Preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction" ranked third this year, with 73 percent of respondents naming that as a top issue. In 2001, 78 percent of those asked placed that topic behind only protection from terrorist attacks as the country's top priority.
However, "promoting democracy in other nations," a notion favored by many U.S. presidents dating back to at least Woodrow Wilson in the early 20th century, has steadily fallen out of favor with the U.S. public, the survey found.
Only 18 percent of those interviewed considered that an American priority. That's a steady decline since 2001, when 29 percent said it was a major concern.
The issue had the greatest support, 27 percent, from Democrats. Only 16 percent of Republicans did, and only 13 percent of independents.
The survey was conducted by telephone Oct. 30 through Nov. 6 among a nationwide sample of 2,003 adults by interviewers working under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The margin of error was calculated at 2.5 percentage points.