With State of the Union Approaching, Four in Five Americans Give the State of the Country Negative Ratings

NEW YORK – January 24, 2014 – 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.

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.

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TABLE 1

CURRENT STATE OF THE UNION

At the end of the month, President Barack Obama will give his State of the Union to the American people. How would you rate the current state of the country?

Base: All adults

TOTAL

Political Party

Age

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

18-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65+

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE (NET)

20

8

33

17

25

21

14

19

18

Excellent

3

1

4

3

6

2

1

2

1

Good

17

8

29

14

19

19

12

17

17

NEGATIVE (NET)

80

92

67

83

75

79

86

81

82

Fair

44

31

53

43

46

43

47

41

41

Poor

36

60

14

40

29

36

40

40

41

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 2

WATCHING THE STATE OF THE UNION

Will you be watching the State of the Union address this year?

Base: All adults

TOTAL

Political Party

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

%

%

%

%

Yes

28

26

36

26

Maybe

40

36

42

41

No

32

38

22

33

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 3

RATINGS OF HOW SPECIFIC ISSUES ARE GOING IN THE COUNTRY

Summary Table

How would you rate how well the following issues are going in the country?

Base: U.S. Adults

POSITIVE (NET)

Excellent

Pretty good

NEGATIVE (NET)

Only fair

Poor

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The environment

34

4

30

61

40

21

6

Education

29

4

25

67

42

26

3

Healthcare

25

4

21

71

29

41

4

The economy

23

3

20

74

37

38

3

Jobs

20

3

17

78

40

38

2

Immigration

16

4

13

75

33

41

9

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 4

RATINGS OF HOW SPECIFIC ISSUES ARE GOING IN THE COUNTRY

Summary of Excellent/Pretty good

How would you rate how well each of the following issues are going in the country?

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Gender

Political Party

Male

Female

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

The environment

34

36

31

42

33

30

Education

29

29

29

31

32

24

Healthcare

25

27

24

14

38

21

The economy

23

27

20

13

33

22

Jobs

20

20

20

13

29

17

Immigration

16

17

16

13

20

14

TABLE 5

DOMESTIC ISSUES OBAMA SHOULD ADDRESS IN STATE OF THE UNION

While all of the following domestic issues may be important to you, which two of these would you like to see President Obama address in the State of the Union? Please select up to two responses.

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Age

Political Affiliation

18-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65+

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

The economy

56

42

55

65

65

62

63

54

56

Jobs

43

40

42

45

43

49

44

46

42

Healthcare

38

38

40

43

37

35

41

38

38

Immigration

18

15

16

13

20

23

24

12

21

Education

17

26

19

13

14

11

9

22

17

Gun control

14

17

12

12

12

13

9

16

13

The environment

9

13

9

7

6

6

5

10

10

Note: Multiple responses

TABLE 6

POSITIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA

Summary Table

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

Base: U.S. adults

AGREE (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not Sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

He is trying to bring about much needed change.

55

28

27

39

17

22

6

He is open, honest and trustworthy.

49

21

28

45

16

29

6

He is working for the people’s best interests and doing the right thing.

49

21

29

45

17

29

6

He deserved his re-election.

48

28

20

46

10

36

6

He does a good job of explaining issues to people like me.

47

19

29

47

19

27

6

He has made other countries feel better about the United States.

42

16

27

46

19

28

11

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 7

POSITIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA

Tracking & by Political Affiliation

Summary of Strongly agree/Somewhat agree

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

Base: U.S. Adults

Jan 2010 Total

Jan 2011 Total

Jan 2012 Total

Jan 2013 Total

Jan 2014 Total

Political Affiliation

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

He is trying to bring about much needed change.

60

58

54

59

55

29

77

55

He is open, honest and trustworthy.

54

53

50

55

49

19

77

44

He is working for the people’s best interests and doing the right thing.

51

51

49

54

49

19

77

45

He deserved his re-election.

NA

NA

NA

54

48

16

78

42

He does a good job of explaining issues to people like me.

NA

51

49

54

47

22

73

43

He has made other countries feel better about the United States.

57

50

43

49

42

19

69

34


TABLE 8

NEGATIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA

Summary Table

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

Base: U.S. adults

AGREE (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

DISAGREE (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not Sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

He spends too much time talking and there isn’t enough action.

60

34

26

34

21

13

6

He hasn’t done much for us yet.

56

32

24

39

22

17

5

He is spending too much and creating too much debt.

54

36

19

37

20

18

8

He is not changing things fast enough.

50

19

30

43

25

18

7

He doesn’t care about people like me.

45

29

16

49

21

28

6

He is changing things too fast.

34

17

17

59

28

30

7

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 9

NEGATIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA

Tracking & by Political Affiliation

[Summary or Strongly agree + Somewhat agree Responses]

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

Base: U.S. Adults

Jan 2010 Total

Jan 2011 Total

Jan 2012 Total

Jan 2013 Total

Jan 2014 Total

Political Affiliation

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

He spends too much time talking and there isn’t enough action.

57

56

61

54

60

81

41

65

He hasn’t done much for us yet.

61

53

58

48

56

83

31

61

He is spending too much and creating too much debt.

61

56

59

54

54

86

27

60

He is not changing things fast enough.

43

45

55

56

50

51

49

51

He doesn’t care about people like me.

NA

41

45

40

45

76

20

47

He is changing things too fast.

38

33

26

23

34

56

19

34

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 17 and 21, 2014 among 2,047 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll® #9, January 24, 2014

By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

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