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2019 in CBS News polling: What Americans thought about Trump, the economy, the 2020 race and more

Correspondents Panel: A look back at the year's most important stories
Correspondents Panel: A look back at the year... 22:31

In 2019, CBS News polled thousands of people across the country asking about a wide range of topics including President Trump, the Russia investigation, the 2020 race for the presidency, climate change and even the national anthem. The CBS News Poll also asked the public to weigh in on some anniversaries marking seminal events in America's history.

Here's some of what we found:

January: The government shutdown and border wall debate continue

2019 began where 2018 left off, with a federal government shutdown. Congress could not agree on a spending bill to fund the federal government so it was partially shut down. The issue at the center of the debate was money Mr. Trump wanted for a border wall. Seven in 10 Americans didn't think the issue of a border wall was worth a government shutdown. Much of the partisan divisions we've seen in recent years persisted. Most Democrats didn't think wall funding was worth a shutdown, but Republicans — most of whom support a border wall — felt it was.


Despite the shutdown, the public was feeling good about the economy — 68% said it was in good shape.

February: Another Trump-Kim summit, and the public splits on the NFL and national anthem

Congress approved a short-term spending bill to reopen the government and, in February, Mr. Trump declared a national emergency to appropriate money to build a border wall. Most in the president's own party supported this action, but 66% of the public overall opposed it.

The month began with talk of another possible summit between Mr. Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (a summit did take place later in the month). Few Americans believed North Korea had reduced its nuclear program, and a majority didn't think another summit should happen. Republicans supported another summit, although most of them also felt North Korea had not changed its nuclear program since the last summit.


From the international arena to the football arena, the controversy surrounding the NFL and the national anthem continued, dividing the public. Half said the league should require players to stand for the national anthem, but another half said the NFL should allow players to either stand or kneel during the anthem as they choose. Opinions differed little between football fans and non-fans, but there was a stark divide along racial and political lines: Most Republicans (86%) and whites (58%) said players should be required to stand, while most Democrats (76%) and African Americans (76%) felt they should be permitted to either stand or kneel.


March: Mueller submits report, and most say they've fantasized about quitting their jobs

In March, Attorney General William Barr released a four-page letter to Congress highlighting the conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation. Partisan splits that had long marked the investigation remained after the letter was released: Most Republicans said the report had cleared Mr. Trump, while most Democrats were unconvinced and thought Congress should continue to pursue the matter. A majority of the public (77%) supported the release of the full Mueller report. There was agreement across party lines on that. 


Have you ever fantasized about quitting your job? Most U.S. adults who work full time said they have: 56% have done so at least every once in a while, including 14% who said they fantasize about quitting their job all the time. If they did quit, travel tops the list as the thing people would most like to do with their free time, outranking spending more time with their friends and family. 


April: A new high for legal pot

The CBS News Poll measures the public's views on legal marijuana at least once a year. And support for legal pot hit a new high in 2019, with 65% of U.S. adults saying marijuana should be legal. 

For the first time in CBS News polling, a majority of Republicans (56%) favored legal marijuana. And while those ages 65 and over continued to be the least likely age group to support marijuana legalization, slightly more of them favored it (49%) than opposed it (45%) in this poll.  


May: Majority supports keeping Roe v. Wade, and Trump gets some credit for a good economy

Recent state laws restricting access to abortion had prompted speculation over whether the Supreme Court might revisit Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds of Americans said Roe v. Wade should be left in place, and most who hold that view said they would be disappointed or angry if the ruling were to be overturned. 

While most Republicans want stricter limits on abortion or to ban it outright, they were split over whether Roe v. Wade specifically ought to be overturned: 48% said it should be, but 45% said it should stay in place.   


A majority of Americans remained confident about the U.S. economy and most gave Mr. Trump's policies at least partial credit for good economic conditions.


Two years after the launch of the Russia investigation, most Americans said they had heard enough about the Mueller report. And more than half said congressional Democrats should drop the Russia matter and move on to other issues. Most Democrats wanted Congress to keep investigating, however. 

June: The 2020 CBS News Battleground Tracker debuts, and the 50-year anniversary of Stonewall

On June 16, CBS News released its first Battleground Tracker of the 2020 campaign. It looked at the Democratic race for president across the 18 states holding primaries and caucuses from Iowa through Super Tuesday. CBS News converted Democrats' vote choices into delegates — the count that will ultimately matter.

The belief that he could fare best against the president propelled Joe Biden to the top spot in both vote share and delegate estimate for the Democratic nomination.

Candidates receiving 1% or less in the poll are not pictured.

This June marked 50 years since the Stonewall uprising, the 1969 demonstrations by members of the gay community in New York City's Greenwich Village in support of gay rights. Most Americans said they've seen progress in ending discrimination against gays and lesbians. Sixty-seven percent support legalized same-sex marriage, a record high in CBS News polls. Attitudes may have changed and progress made, but a majority said at least some gay and lesbian discrimination still exists, including 44% who said a lot remains. More — 56% — said there is a lot of discrimination against people who are transgender.


July: Moon landing turns 50, and the public weighs in on Trump's "go back" tweets

In July, the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of the historic moon landing. Most Americans said the moon landing was worth it and want the U.S. to go back. There is even greater support for sending astronauts to Mars. And some want to take a trip to the moon themselves — 31% of Americans would like to. More are interested now than the 13% that was recorded by Gallup a few years before the first moon landing, when it hadn't yet been accomplished.


Things got pretty heated this summer when the president fired off a tweet telling four congresswomen of color to "go back" to the countries they came from. Most Americans (59%) disagreed with what the president said in his tweets, but 40% of the country agreed with it, including eight in 10 Republicans.  

Three in four black Americans described the ideas expressed in the president's tweets as racist, while whites were divided.  


August: Good marks on the economy for Trump, but skepticism about trade policy with China

In August, the CBS News Poll measured the public's views on the president and the economy, trade policy and on their own finances.

More gave Mr. Trump positive ratings on his handling of the economy in general than on his trade policy with China.


There was some public skepticism about whether the president's approach to trade with China will be successful. Only a quarter believed it would be. By year's end, the administration announced the U.S. and China had reached an agreement on "phase one" of a trade deal.

Some once protested against the British over a tax on tea, but today, Americans have a preference for coffee. In a head to head matchup between the two hot beverages, 47% said they most often drink coffee, while 40% picked tea. While most men said they drank coffee more often, women have a preference for tea.

September: Health care, mental health, climate change and impeachment

Health care is a top concern for most Americans and it will be a key issue in the 2020 race for president. Most favor some type of national health insurance plan, but they like their own health insurance and don't want private insurance to be replaced entirely with a public plan. Keeping costs down is a priority over making sure everyone has health care coverage. And many — more than four in 10 — find affording basic medical care a hardship.


The CBS News Poll dove into the topic of mental health for a special broadcast of "CBS This Morning" called "Stop the Stigma: A Conversation about Mental Health." Two in three Americans said mental illness is a very serious public health problem. It's also an issue that is personal for most: A majority have said they personally know someone who has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

Climate change is another pressing issue for the public. In a September poll, 56% of U.S. adults said action needs to be taken right now to address it. Opinions on climate change divide along partisan lines, with most Democrats saying humans contribute a lot to climate change and that people need to act now, and Republicans more skeptical about the degree to which humans are involved and the urgency of the issue. This poll on climate was released as part of Covering Climate Now, a collaboration of more than 250 news outlets around the world providing in-depth coverage of the climate story.


Soon after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would move ahead with a formal impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump, the CBS News Poll took its first measure on the matter. More than half of Americans approved of opening the inquiry, but there was more division over whether he actually deserved to be impeached over his actions regarding Ukraine. Views remained similarly divided throughout the impeachment process.


October: Warren extends lead across early states, and partisans dig in on impeachment

October's CBS News Battleground Tracker had some good news in it for Elizabeth Warren. She extended her aggregate lead across the 18 early primary and caucus states. Democratic voters viewed Warren as better able than Biden to handle any attacks from Mr. Trump in 2020. 


Warren and Bernie Sanders were more likely than Biden to be seen as someone who will "fight" a great deal for people like them. Biden still had the advantage on electability, which continues to be a top priority for Democratic voters.

On impeachment, most said the Trump administration should cooperate with the inquiry, although a majority of Republicans disagreed. Partisans became more hardened in their views on impeachment.

November: Buttigieg picks up steam in Iowa and New Hampshire

Democratic voters' first choice for the nomination across the 18 early primary and caucus states continued to swing back and forth between Biden and Warren (followed by Bernie Sanders), with neither breaking away.

Candidates receiving 1% or less in the poll are not pictured.

But it was Pete Buttigieg who made gains in the states of Iowa and New Hampshire. His support in Iowa had tripled since September. And Warren, who was atop the list with Biden the month before, had dropped a bit.

Some Democrats expressed concern that Sanders and Warren's policy stances could be too liberal for either of them to beat Mr. Trump in November 2020. Fewer said that about Buttigieg's and Biden's policy positions.

In November, with Election Day a year away, Democratic voters had not grown any more confident that their party's eventual nominee would beat the president. While most said they were at least somewhat confident, just 26% were very confident, a percentage that had barely budged since the summer.


December: Hearings have little impact on impeachment views, and Bloomberg debuts in 5th in Super Tuesday states

With the House set to vote on impeaching Mr. Trump, the public remained divided on whether he deserved impeachment. Hours of public hearings had not swayed public opinion very much.

If or when the matter heads to the Senate, the public is split on what should happen: 42% think the president should be convicted and removed from office, while the same percentage say the Senate should not convict him or not hold a trial at all.


December's Battleground Tracker interviewed Democratic voters across the 14 states holding primaries on March 3, known as Super Tuesday. These are the states where one of the latest entrants into the race – former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg —  is focusing his attention and his money. Bloomberg debuted in fifth place across the Super Tuesday states, getting 4% of the vote in the Battleground Tracker.

Kamala Harris exited the race for president in early December, and her supporters in the Super Tuesday states moved primarily to Biden and Warren.

As 2019 comes to a close, the campaign has elicited mixed emotions from Democrats in these states: More of them said they feel nervous about it than optimistic. 


With 2019 soon behind us, many people are thinking about the year ahead. Forty-two percent of U.S. adults plan to make resolutions for 2020, although 56% do not. Continuing with a trend from last year, younger people are more likely than those who are older to say they'll make resolutions. Maybe it's because younger adults will have more time to contemplate resolutions. 70% of those under age 35 say it's very likely they will stay up until midnight on New Year's Eve; a figure that drops to 38% among those 65 years and older. 


2020: What's ahead?

Looking ahead, 2020 will be full of happenings on the political front, including the impeachment trial and the presidential election. Will the partisan divides we have seen in recent years remain? Who will be the Democratic nominee? What will we be talking about at this time next year? The CBS News polling team will continue to measure the views of the American public on the key issues and events that arise. Keep watching. 

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