Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: State of the Union and the 2010 Census

The State of the Union speech given last Wednesday by President Obama was a major event and the focus of several polls.  Though Gallup reported that, historically, support for the President is not affected by the State of the Union, a before-after survey conducted by CNN shows that the address bolstered viewers confidence in the administration.  How long this boost will last, and whether it can be generalized to the entire public, remains to be seen. Another significant upcoming event receiving increasing attention is the decennial census which will be conducted in March.

STATE OF THE UNION
Just before President Obama's State of the Union speech, CNN conducted and released a poll to gauge which issues were most pressing to Americans, and what they were expecting from the President's address.  It is not news that people have grown increasingly pessimistic about the direction of the country, and CNN's poll showed over the past year there has been a steep decline in those expressing that the country is headed in the right direction:

•67% in February 2009
•63% in May 2009
•52% in August 2009
•49% in January 2010

Currently Americans are evenly split - 49% to 49% - between those who think the country is headed in the right direction and those who think it is headed in the wrong direction.  When asked which issues the President and Congress need to address in the next year, those that are "very" or "extremely" important to a large majority of individuals include:

•The economy, 97%, up five points from 92% in May 2009
•Unemployment, 94%, a 6-point increase from 88% in May
•Terrorism, 88%, a 7-point increase since May (81%)
•The federal budget deficit, 83%, with no significant change in the past year
•Education, 79%, also without much change in the past year
•The situation in Afghanistan, 78%, which has only increased 2 points in the past year
•The situation in Iraq, 74%, which has been stable over the last year
•Health care, 69%, down a full 10 points from 79% in May
•Taxes, 69%, down from 76% in February 2009

Some additional issue areas that experienced a significant decline in level of priority to the public include:

•illegal immigration, from 62% last year to 56% currently
•the environment, from 63% last year to 53% currently
•energy policy, from 73% last year to 53% currently

Regarding the speech itself:

•a majority of 63% said it would be good or excellent, only 11% said it would be poor or terrible, with a quarter of respondents saying it would be "just okay" •a majority of 53% said it was not very likely or not likely at all that the President's speech will boost their confidence in the future of the nation' economy; 45% said it was very or somewhat likely the speech would make them feel more confident •a large majority of 70% said they wanted to hear proposals that would move the administration in a new direction

To gauge American's reactions to the President's address, CBS conducted a poll of viewers before and after the State of the Union speech.  Their findings include:

•83% of viewers approve of the President's proposals in the speech, with 99% of Democrats, 79% of Independents and 57% of Republicans •70% agreed, after the speech, that the President shares their priorities for the country, up from 57% in agreement before the speech •63% of Democrats think the President will be able to accomplish the goals outlined in the speech, whereas 89% of Republicans and 66% of Independents think he will not

There was a significant increase in optimism after the speech regarding the administrations plans for creating jobs, and for dealing with the economy, health care and the situation in Afghanistan.

•59% believe, after the speech, that the President has a clear plan for creating jobs, a complete turnaround compared to before the speech when 59% believed that he did not have a clear plan for job creation
•71% believe, after the speech, that his economic plans will help ordinary Americans, up from 55% before the speech
•56% believe, after the speech, that his economic plans will reduce the deficit in the long run, up from 41% before the speech

On approval of the President's plans:

•76% approve of his plans for dealing with the economy, compared to 55% before the speech •72% approve of his plans for addressing government spending
•67% approve of his plans for dealing with health care, compared to 54% before the speech
•74% approve of his plans for dealing with Afghanistan, compared to 58% before the speech

THE CENSUS
The United States Census, essentially a count of the country's population, is required by the Constitution and is conducted every ten years.  It is important in determining the number of House Representatives for each of the states, and in the allocation of federal funds to communities for hospitals, schools and infrastructure.  The 2010 Census will facilitate the distribution of over $400 billion.  Visit the Census.gov website to learn more about the 2010 Census.

Pew Research Center conducted a survey assessing Americans opinions on the census.  Nine in ten Americans believe the census is somewhat or very important and eight in ten probably or definitely will participate in the census.  Democrats placed more importance on the census than Republicans or Independents, with 71% of Democrats saying it is very important, compared to 56% of Republicans and 54% of Independents. Four in ten respondents did not realize or did not know that the census is used to decide how federal funds are allocated.  Only 8% of the general population were unaware of the census even after it was described, but certain demographic groups were less familiar than others:

•17% of 18-29 year olds were unaware of the census
•17% of Latinos
•13% of those with a high school education or less 
•13%  of those with a family income under $30,000

Most of the 6% of Americans who say they will probably or definitely not participate in the census say that they are too busy or not interested, or they don't know much about it or haven't done it before.  Lack of awareness is a major factor hindering census participation.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Tags: Opportunity, sotu, census, public opinion, polling, opinion research, obama (all tags)

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