While many in Washington, D.C. are spending this weekend trying to stay warm or maybe still digging out from the snow earlier in the week, President Obama and his staff are getting ready for next week’s State of the Union address. This address comes as just one in five Americans (20%) rate the current state of the country positively while four in five (80%) give it negative ratings. And, while it’s not surprising that 92% of Republicans give the state of the country negative marks, so do 83% of Independents and a full two-third (67%) of Democrats.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,047 adults surveyed online between January 17 and 21, 2014 by Harris Interactive. (Full findings, including data tables and comprehensive breakdowns by political party, available here)
Looking at Specific Issues
As the President lays out his agenda for the upcoming year and stresses the issues he would like Congress to undertake, it’s interesting to note how Americans feel a number of issues are going in the country. On six specific issues, strong majorities give negative marks. Three in five (61%) U.S. adults give negative ratings for the overall state of the environment in the U.S., while two-thirds (67%) give negative ratings for how the country is doing on education and seven in ten (71%) give negative national ratings for healthcare. Three-quarters of Americans give negative ratings for how well the economy (74%) and immigration (75%) are doing, with almost four in five (78%) saying the same for jobs.
When it comes to the topics that should be addressed in the State of the Union, three definitely rise to the top. Over half of Americans (56%) say that President Obama should address the economy, while two in five each say he should address jobs (43%) and healthcare (38%). Less than one in five believe immigration (18%), education (17%) and gun control (14%) should be addressed, while just one in ten (9%) say the environment should be addressed in the State of the Union.
Thoughts on the President
January is not only State of the Union time; it’s also the beginning of a new year – the 6th of President Obama’s time in the White House – and the past year has not been an easy one for him. Looking at 12 statements, six more positive and 6 more negative, about the President, it’s clear that the past year has taken its toll on how people view him.
Looking at the positive statements, each of these has fewer Americans who agree with them this year than last January when President Obama was getting ready to be sworn in for his second term.
- 55% agree President Obama is trying to bring about much needed change, down from 59% last year;
- Just under half (49%) agree he is open, honest and trustworthy, down from 55%;
- 49% agree President Obama is working for the people’s best interests and doing the right thing, down from 54%;
- Under half of Americans (48%) agree he deserved his re-election, down from 54% right after he was re-elected;
- 47% agree the President does a good job of explaining issues to people like me, down from 54%; and,
- Two in five U.S. adults (42%) agree he has made other countries feel better about the United States, down from 49%.
Looking at some of the more negative statements, some have gone up over the past year, while others have stayed flat and others still have decreased.
- Three in five Americans (60%) agree President Obama spends too much time talking and there isn’t enough action, up from 54% who agreed with this statement last year;
- 56% agree he hasn’t done much for us yet, up from 48% last year;
- Just over half of U.S. adults (54%) agree that the President is spending too much and creating too much debt, same as last year;
- Half of Americans (50%) say he is not changing things fast enough, down from 56% last year;
- 45% agree President Obama doesn’t care about people like them, up from 40%; and
- One-third of Americans (34%) agree he is changing things too fast, up from 23% last year.
So, as President Obama takes to the Speaker’s podium in the House of Representatives, all eyes will be on him to see how he handles these issues. Or will they? Less than three in ten Americans (28%) say they will watch the State of the Union address this year and two in five (40%) say maybe they’ll watch; one-third (32%) will not be watching.