Heading into the State of the Union Address, Two in Five Americans Say State of the Country is Poor

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – January 24, 2011 – President Obama is finishing up his State of the Union address for Tuesday evening and one of the points he will discuss is the current state of the country. According to Americans, the union is not doing so well. Just 3% of U.S. adults say the state of the country is excellent and 14% say it is good. More than two in five (43%) say that it is fair while 40% say it is poor.

    With the current divided government, it is interesting to note that neither party says the state of the country is good. Democrats are a little more positive as three in ten (29%) give the state of the country positive ratings compared to 12% of Independents and 8% of Republicans.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,066 adults surveyed online between January 18 and 20, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

    Are certain things better than others?

    One reason Americans may not feel that the state of the country is going well is due to the fact that majorities give negative ratings to nine different current issues. Looking at defense and national security, six in ten U.S. adults give negative marks to how the war on terrorism is going (59%) while slightly higher numbers give negative ratings to the war in Iraq (63%) and almost three-quarters (72%) give negative marks to the war in Afghanistan. Health care reform may have finally passed Congress, but seven in ten Americans give negative ratings to making prescription drugs affordable (69%).

    Economic issues fare even worse. Three-quarters of U.S. adults (76%) give negative ratings to how strengthening the economy is going and four in five Americans each give negative marks to how creating new jobs (79%) is going and making taxes fairer (79%). The worst thing on this list in the mind of Americans is strengthening social security; more than four in five (82%) give it negative ratings. The thing that is going the best in the country right now is protecting the environment as over one-third of Americans (36%) give it positive ratings and 57% give it negative marks.

    And party labels do not matter. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents all have the same opinion and give negative ratings to how all nine things are going in the country right now.

    Focus for the State of the Union

    When it comes to which of these the President should focus on for Tuesday’s speech, two clearly rise to the top. When asked which two he should focus on, over two-thirds of Americans say he should focus on strengthening the economy (68%) while over half say he should focus on creating new jobs (53%). Further down the list, one in five each say he should focus on strengthening social security (20%) and making taxes fairer (20%). Just one in ten or less say the focus should be on the war on terrorism (10%), making prescription drugs more affordable (7%), protecting the environment (6%), the war in Iraq (6%), and the war in Afghanistan (6%).

    So What?

    State of the Unions may not be the most watched as just one-quarter of Americans (27%) say they will watch while 45% say they might, but besides being constitutionally mandated, they serve an important purpose. A State of the Union address is a time for presidents to attempt to move something to the forefront or shift the political debate. While a sense of some civility has been seen in Washington as members from different parties are saying they are going to sit next to each other as opposed to the usual seating arrangements of party separation, the minute the speech is over, the odds are better than not that the partisan bickering will start up all over again. But, one thing is clear in the mind of the American public, things aren’t going very well and the focus needs to be on the economy. Let’s see how President Obama addresses this.

     

    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+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    POSITIVE (NET)

    17

    8

    29

    12

    27

    16

    12

    12

    Excellent

    3

    2

    5

    2

    6

    5

    1

    1

    Good

    14

    6

    23

    11

    21

    11

    10

    11

    NEGATIVE (NET)

    83

    92

    71

    88

    73

    84

    88

    88

    Fair

    43

    31

    51

    47

    45

    45

    41

    41

    Poor

    40

    61

    21

    41

    28

    39

    48

    46

    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

    27

    19

    39

    25

    Maybe

    45

    48

    43

    46

    No

    28

    33

    18

    29

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

     

    TABLE 3

    HOW WELL THINGS ARE GOING IN THE COUNTRY

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

    Base: All adults

    Excellent/ Pretty good (NET)

    Excellent

    Pretty good

    Only fair/ Poor (NET)

    Only fair

    Poor

    Not sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Protecting the Environment

    36

    5

    31

    57

    37

    20

    7

    The War on Terrorism

    33

    5

    27

    59

    33

    27

    8

    The War in Iraq

    28

    6

    22

    63

    33

    30

    9

    Making Prescription Drugs Affordable

    25

    5

    20

    69

    35

    35

    6

    Strengthening the Economy

    20

    3

    17

    76

    37

    39

    4

    The War in Afghanistan

    19

    2

    17

    72

    38

    34

    9

    Creating New Jobs

    18

    3

    15

    79

    35

    44

    4

    Making Taxes Fairer

    16

    3

    13

    79

    32

    47

    5

    Strengthening Social Security

    12

    2

    10

    82

    29

    53

    7

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

     

    TABLE 4

    HOW WELL THINGS ARE GOING IN THE COUNTRY – By Party

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

    Percent saying Only Fair/Poor

    Base: All adults

    TOTAL

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Strengthening Social Security

    82

    91

    71

    86

    Making Taxes Fairer

    79

    86

    69

    85

    Creating New Jobs

    79

    90

    65

    86

    Strengthening the Economy

    76

    91

    61

    82

    The War in Afghanistan

    72

    74

    67

    77

    Making Prescription Drugs Affordable

    69

    73

    62

    74

    The War in Iraq

    63

    61

    61

    67

    The War on Terrorism

    59

    66

    52

    61

    Protecting the Environment

    57

    50

    54

    65

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

     

    TABLE 5

    FOCUS FOR STATE OF THE UNION

    Which two do you think are the most important for President Obama to emphasize in the State of the Union?

    Base: All adults

    TOTAL

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Strengthening the Economy

    68

    66

    67

    74

    Creating New Jobs

    53

    53

    56

    51

    Strengthening Social Security

    20

    21

    21

    17

    Making Taxes Fairer

    20

    20

    18

    19

    The War on Terrorism

    10

    16

    5

    10

    Making Prescription Drugs Affordable

    7

    5

    10

    6

    Protecting the Environment

    6

    3

    7

    8

    The War in Afghanistan

    6

    6

    4

    8

    The War in Iraq

    6

    5

    7

    5

    Note: Multiple responses accepted

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 18 to 20, 2011 among 2,066 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 ® #8, January 24, 2011

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

    About Harris Interactive

    Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.