This is the first time that the Internet has been used to conduct a scientifically representative poll of the public's reaction to a major news event. InterSURVEY, a Silicon Valley company, conducted the poll among a sample of adult members of its household panel, a nationally representative sample given access to the Internet via Web TV.
Eighty-six percent of Americans who watched Mr. Clinton's speech Thursday approved of the proposals offered, while only 14 percent disapproved. Approval of his proposals crossed party lines: 66 percent of Republicans watching the speech approved, as did 97 percent of Democrats.
The American public thinks that Mr. Clinton has made the country a better place, according to the poll, which was conducted near the end of Mr. Clinton's State of the Union speech Thursday night. Fifty-seven percent of Americans think that Mr. Clinton has made the country a better place, while only 11 percent say he has made it worse, and 31 percent say he has made no difference. Among those who watched his speech, 64 percent feel he has made the country better.
In more good news for Mr. Clinton's legacy, the public would like the next president to continue his policies. Overall, 71 percent of Americans want the next president to continue the Clinton administration policies, including 76 percent of those who watched the speech.
Of the proposals Mr. Clinton offered, the viewing public was most intrigued by his proposal to provide prescription drug coverage for Medicare patients, while those not viewing the speech would prefer his proposed tax cuts. The public also believes the president can achieve his stated goal of eliminating the national debt in the next 13 years - 56 percent of all Americans think it is an achievable goal, as do 61 percent of those who watched the speech.
But the public is skeptical about the likelihood of the president and Republicans in Congress working together on important issues in the coming year. Forty-two percent feel they will be able to work together, but 57 percent say they won't. Even those who watched the speech are dubious; 44 percent think it can be done, but 56 percent think it cannot.
Al Gore may benefit from Mr. Clinton's efforts tonight: 31 percent of Americans said after the speech that they have a favorable impression of Al Gore, while earlier in the week only 26 percent said so. Mr. Clinton's image fared even better: After the speech 52 percent of Americans said they view him favorably, compared to 40 percent who viewed him favorably earlier this week.
This CBS News Poll was conducted online by interSURVEY among a nationwide ranom sample of 721 adults. The margin of sampling error could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the entire sample, and five points for results among those who viewed the speech.