Sounds Great, But Will It Work?

President Bush, in his first State of the Union address, received overwhelming approval of the proposals he made in his speech from those who watched it. Mr. Bush promised increased funding for the war on terrorism, a doubling of funding for homeland security programs, and new domestic programs he says will help create jobs.

A CBS News poll conducted immediately after the speech shows that while viewers overwhelmingly approve of the proposals outlined by the president, many have doubts about whether those goals will be achieved.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
The President's State of the Union Message

 YesNo
Approve of proposals

85%

5%


 YesNo
Will Bush accomplish them?

36%

44%


 YesNo
Can government afford them?

31%

54%

CBSNEWS Polls


Whatever difficulties the public foresees for the implementation of the president's plans are not necessarily due to fears of a continuing deadlock with Congress. One of the largest ovations during the speech occurred when Mr. Bush urged lawmakers to "act first and foremost not as Republicans, not as Democrats, but as Americans."

In a pre-speech CBS News/New York Times poll, 75 percent of the public said they wanted the president and Congress to compromise in order to get things done. After the speech, Americans - both those who watched it, and those who did not - were hopeful that would happen. And 68 percent of all those surveyed said they believe the president and Democrats in Congress will be able to work together; 22 percensaid they doubt it.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to have tuned in for Mr. Bush's big moment, and of all those who watched, 51 percent said the war on terror was the most important issue, while among those who didn't watch, 51 percent said the most important issue now is the economy.

Speech-watchers found little to complain about in what they heard and only 16 percent said the speech failed to mention an issue they thought should have been part of the president's remarks.

As for Enron - Mr. Bush never mentioned the bankrupt company or the scandal surrounding its collapse, although he did call for accounting and pension reforms - but only 26 percent of those who watched told pollsters that the president should have mentioned Enron.

Mr. Bush made a pitch for tax cuts and pollsters found those arguments by and large fell on receptive ears.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Bush's Tax Cuts Would:

 
Be good for the economy

49%


 
Be bad for the economy

17%


 
Make no difference

23%

CBSNEWS Polls


Poll results suggest President Bush failed to convince the public on one point: the immediate threat of terrorism. Fears of another terrorist attack have dropped sharply as Sept. 11 recedes on the calendar.

Mr. Bush specifically mentioned the "ongoing threat of another attack" and said "time and distance from the events of September 11th will not make us safer unless we act on its lessons." But just 19 percent of those surveyed after the speech - about the same number as before the speech - said that they think another attack is very likely.

As for Mr. Bush's approval rating, it's usual for a president's approval numbers to climb after the State of the Union address, and Mr. Bush did score a slight gain - from 83 percent last week to 86 percent after the speech.


Interviews were conducted among 460 adults by telephone on January 29, 2002, after the President's speech. These respondents were originally interviewed in a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted January 21-24, 2002. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus five percentage points.

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


© MMII, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved

  • Joel Roberts

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