WASHINGTON - Confidence has waned in the
United States since President Obama's historic election four years ago,
but most Americans are still optimistic about the next four years as the
president heads into his second term, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup
After a bruising election season, and as Obama and Congress
head into negotiations on how to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, 69%
of Americans perceive the U.S. as a country greatly divided when it
comes to the most important values. And perhaps because of this
perceived divide, a vast majority - 74% - think Obama should emphasize
programs that both parties support.
With Election Day now in the
rear-view mirror, 54% of respondents said they believe the country will
be better off four years from now, while 41 % said they'll be worse off.
of Americans still say they think Obama will be able to accomplish such
major policy goals as reducing unemployment, improving education,
keeping the U.S. safe from terrorism and improving the health care
On two hot-button issues, however - reducing American
dependence on foreign oil and healing nation's political divide -
Americans are more dour about Obama's ability to accomplish the goals
than they were after his election four years ago.
In the case of
reducing U.S. dependence on oil, the percentage thinking the Obama
administration would do so slipped to 47% from 57% in November 2008. On
the goal of healing political divisions in the country, confidence in
Obama dropped to 33% from 54% in November 2008.
Still, the public
is much more likely to see Obama and Democrats in Congress as willing to
work with the Republicans than they are to see GOP lawmakers as willing
to make a sincere effort to work with Obama and his party. However,
confidence in both the sincerity of Obama and in the sincerity of
Republicans in Congress has plummeted since 2008.
after his Nov. 6 election victory, Obama said the election suggests that
a majority of Americans generally agree with his "balanced" approach to
solving the country's deficit problem, but he has maintained that he is
willing to work with GOP lawmakers to come to a solution.
analysts said the poll shows that Obama has some leverage after his
victory - and as he sits down for talks with Republicans in Congress on
how to avert $600 billion in automatic budget cuts and tax hikes set to
go into effect Jan. 1- but the president is wise to be careful not to
overplay his hand.
"Obama has a mandate to move the country
forward in a bipartisan sort of way," said Elaine Kamarck, a lecturer at
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "The takeaway is that (House
Speaker) John Boehner ought to work with the president and make a
reasonable deal ... and there are many out there to be made."
in Congress, including Mitt Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, said
that Obama's victory, which was a near electoral landslide but a narrow
victory in terms of popular vote, was not a mandate from the American
people. Instead, he said, the voters chose a divided government.
A majority still sees Obama more as a uniter than a divider, though the percentage is down to 55% from 66% four years ago.
the same is true in terms of his favorability - a majority still has a
favorable view, but it's not as high as it was in 2008.
overall have lost ground in the public's opinion, with a bare majority
(51%) now holding a favorable view. They are still ahead of the
Republican Party, though the gap between them has shrunk since the last
Heading into the fiscal cliff negotiations,
Obama has been pressed by labor and progressive organizations to resist
raising the eligibility age on Social Security and Medicare, but 88% of
poll respondents said it is extremely or very important that Obama take
major steps to ensure the long-term stability of both programs.
think the programs are in trouble, and they want the president to fix
them so they are stable and financially secure for the long term - not
just defend the status quo, which they see as unsustainable," said Lanae
Erickson Hatalsky, a domestic policy analyst at Third Way, a centrist
Democratic think tank.
The nationwide poll of 1,009 adults Nov. 9-12 has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.