Poll: Nice Ideas Mr. Bush, But ...

In this photo taken July 23, 2010, surfer Don Frank, second left, and others take a look at the "Magic Carpet Ride" sculpture surrounded by a papier mache model of a great white shark, in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif. AP Photo/The North County Times

Americans who watched President George W. Bush's State of Union Address tonight generally approved of the proposals he made, but don't think he'll be able to accomplish all he laid out.

On the whole, eight in ten viewers, a typical percentage historically for State of the Union watchers, approved of the proposals this President set out in his speech tonight.

VIEWS OF THE SPEECH'S PROPOSALS
(Among speech viewers)

Approve
All
80%
Rep.
97%
Dem.
58%
Ind.
79%

Disapprove
All
20%
Rep.
3%
Dem.
41%
Ind.
20%

But viewers are more doubtful it will all come to pass. 41percent say Bush will be able to accomplish all the goals he set out tonight; most, 59 percent say they believe he will not be able to make it all happen.

WILL BUSH BE ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH ALL THE GOALS SET OUT TONIGHT?
(Among speech viewers)

Yes
41%
No
59%

Bush's Social Security proposal -- the center piece of his domestic policies in tonight's speech -- was well received by a majority of the viewers. 56 percent of viewers tonight said allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes is a good idea. Last week, 44 percent of these same respondents thought so.

ALLOW INDIVIDUALS TO INVEST THEIR SOCIAL SECURITY?
(Among speech viewers)

Good idea
Last week
44%
After speech
56%

Bad idea
Last week
55%
After speech
44%

However, when viewers who thought the plan was a good idea were asked if they would still support the idea if it meant guaranteed benefits would be reduced under the plan, the number who said it was a good idea dropped to 42 percent.

ALLOW INDIVIDUALS TO INVEST THEIR SOCIAL SECURITY IF GUARANTEED BENEFITS ARE REDUCED?
(Among speech viewers)

Good idea
Last week
31%
After speech
42%

Bad idea
Last week
68%
After speech
58%

There were differences by age: after the speech, younger viewers were more likely than older viewers to say the President's Social Security proposal was a good idea -- even if it means the guaranteed benefits would be reduced.

ALLOW INDIVIDUALS TO INVEST THEIR SOCIAL SECURITY IF GUARANTEED BENEFITS ARE REDUCED?
(Among speech viewers, after speech)

Good idea
18-29
53%
30-44
47%
45-64
38%
64+
34%

Bad idea
18-29
47%
30-44
53%
45-64
61%
64+
66%


EVALUATING THE PROPOSALS
On the whole, viewers thought that Bush's proposals would be good for the economy. But there were sharp partisan differences in evaluations of Bush's approach.

DO YOU THINK BUSH'S PROPOSALS TONIGHT WILL BE…?
(Among speech viewers)

Good for the economy
All
61%
Rep.
88%
Dem.
31%
Ind.
55%

Bad for the economy
All
14%
Rep.
2%
Dem.
28%
Ind.
17%

Will make no difference
All
25%
Rep.
10%
Dem.
41%
Ind.
27%


Even though President Bush focused on Social Security tonight, there are other things he mentioned that viewers may be more interested in getting first, such as simplifying the federal tax code. Given a list of some of the proposals that were mentioned in the speech, viewers said that if they had to choose one to be enacted in the coming year, simplifying the federal tax code (35 percent) and helping small business with health insurance (22 percent) would come before personal Social Security accounts (20 percent).

WHICH WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN THIS YEAR?
(Among speech viewers)

Simplify the Federal tax code
35%
Let small business pool health insurance funds
22%
Create personal Social Security accounts
20%
Restrict medical liability awards
14%
Expand school testing standards
6%
None of these
4%

THE FUTURE OF IRAQ
The President lauded the Iraqis who turned out to vote in their election Sunday, and speech viewers were much more hopeful after the speech that they were beforehand about the possibility of a democratic Iraq.

POSSIBLE FOR U.S. TO CREATE STABLE DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ?…
(Among speech viewers)

Possible
Last week
54%
After speech
65%

Not possible
Last week
45%
After speech
34%

Outlook for the ability of the U.S. to succeed in creating a stable democracy in Iraq varies with partisanship. Even after watching the speech, just four in 10 Democrats said it was possible for the U.S. to create a stable democracy in Iraq. But among Republicans who watched the speech, nine in 10 said creating a democracy in Iraq was possible.

Looking ahead, three quarters of the viewers tonight think U.S. troops should stay in Iraq as long as it takes to ensure that a stable democracy takes hold there.

NOW THAT IRAQ HAS HELD AN ELECTION, U.S. TROOPS SHOULD…
(Among speech viewers)
After speech

Stay until Iraq is stable
76%
Leave as soon as possible
24%

When interviewed last week, before both the speech and the Iraqi election, a majority of these viewers felt the military action in Iraq was the right thing to do. Even more think so now.

LOOKING BACK, U.S. MILITARY ACTION IN IRAQ WAS…
(Among speech viewers)

The right thing to do
Last week
53%
After speech
60%

U.S. should've stayed out
Last week
46%
After speech
40%

Following the speech, most say the results of the U.S. action have been worth the costs, including the loss of life. Last week, less than half felt this way.

RESULTS OF WAR IN IRAQ HAVE BEEN…
(Among speech viewers)

Worth the costs
Last week
42%
After speech
54%

Not worth it
Last week
56%
After speech
46%

Tonight's speech watchers went into the speech mixed on whether they approved of Bush' handling of Iraq. But after watching, nearly two-thirds said they approved.

GEORGE W. BUSH HANDLING OF IRAQ…
(Among speech viewers)

Approve
Last week
47%
After speech
64%

Disapprove
Last week
52%
After speech
36%

VIEWS OF THE PRESIDENT
When interviewed last week, tonight's speech watchers were roughly split over whether President Bush shared their priorities for the country and most said he did not have a clear plan for dealing with the situation in Iraq. Tonight, after watching the address, six in ten viewers said the President shares their priorities and has a clear plan for Iraq; two thirds felt confident after the speech that Bush will make sure Social Security is there for them.

VIEWS OF PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH…
(Among speech viewers)

Shares your priorities
Last week
52%
After speech
62%

Will make sure Social Security is there
Last week
54%
After speech
65%

Has a clear plan for Iraq
Last week
44%
After speech
58%

Those who watched the speech tonight were more Republican than the nation as a whole. That is not surprising; historically, a President's supporters are more likely than his opponents to watch State of the Union addresses. The viewers in this poll were 39 percent Republican and 30 percent Democrat. In the most recent CBS News/New York Times poll of all Americans January 14-18, 2005, the nationwide breakdown is much closer to even between the parties: 34 percent Democrat and 31 percent Republican.

SPEECH VIEWERS AND AMERICANS' PARTY AFFILIATION

Republican
Viewers
39%
All Americans
31%

Democrat
Viewers
30%
All Americans
34%

Independent
Viewers
31%
All Americans
36%




For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.


This CBS News Poll was conducted online by Knowledge Networks among a nationwide random sample of 839 State of the Union viewers. This is a scientifically representative poll of viewers' reaction to the speech. Knowledge Networks, a Silicon Valley company, conducted the poll among a sample of adult members of its household panel who said in recent days that they intended to watch the speech. The Knowledge Networks panel is a nationally representative sample given access to the Internet via Web TV. The margin of sampling error could be plus or minus four percentage points for the entire sample of speech watchers.

  • John Esterbrook

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