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%).
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.