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Bush Speech: How Did It Go Over?

A CBS News Poll of over 700 Americans who watched President Bush's State of the Union address found a large majority approved of the proposals he made and think they will make their lives better, but few thought he will be able to accomplish the goals he set out. Opinions about the war in Iraq - and the President himself – improved, though not dramatically.

As a group, Americans who watched the speech are more Republican than the nation as a whole. Historically, a President's supporters are more likely than his opponents to watch State of the Union addresses. 36 percent of speech viewers in this poll are Republican and 28 percent are Democrat. In a recent CBS News/New York Times poll of all Americans, conducted January 20-25, 2006, the breakdown was much more even between the parties: 34 percent Democrat and 29 percent Republican.


Read the full CBS News poll release:
  • President Bush's 2006 State of the Union Address (.pdf)

  • Seventy-seven percent of speech watchers approved, and 23 percent disapproved, of the proposals the President laid out in his State of the Union speech – about the same number of watchers who approved of his plans in last year's State of the Union address.

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

    Now
    Approve
    77%
    Disapprove
    23%

    1/2005
    Approve
    80%
    Disapprove
    20%

    However, viewers are doubtful President Bush will be able to accomplish all the goals he set out in his speech. Just 32 percent say he will accomplish them. Last year, 41 percent said Mr. Bush would be able to accomplish his goals. Even after Tuesday night's speech, nearly seven in 10 think he will not be able to.

    Nearly all Republicans who watched the speech approve of the proposals presented in the speech, and over half of Democratic viewers approve. Republicans participating in the survey expressed confidence that the president will be able to accomplish all the goals outlined; Democrats did not think so.

    WILL BUSH BE ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH THE GOALS HE SET OUT IN HIS SPEECH? (Among speech viewers)

    Now
    Yes
    32%
    No
    68%

    1/2005
    Yes
    41%
    No
    59%

    A majority of speech viewers are hopeful about how President Bush's proposals may affect them. About six in 10 think the Bush proposals would make their own life better, a third say they would have no effect.

    When asked to pick from a list of issues addressed by President Bush, speech watchers choose terrorism as the most important issue, followed closely by health care. Tied for third are the economy and energy, followed by education and taxes.

    WOULD BUSH'S PROPOSALS MAKE YOUR LIFE …
    (Among speech viewers)

    Better
    59%
    Worse
    9%
    No effect
    33%

    President Bush said that his budget-cutting reforms would cut the deficit in half by 2009. But when asked about the federal budget deficit, almost half of speech watchers expect the deficit to be bigger at the end of President Bush's second term than it is now. Another 27 percent say it will be smaller and the same number say the deficit will be unchanged.

    Addressing the House, Senate, Supreme Court justices, numerous guests of honor assembled for the State of the Union, as well as the national audience listening and watching the speech, President Bush said "We remain on the offensive against terrorist networks." Among survey participants who watched the speech, over half say the U.S. is winning the war on terrorism, although 38 percent think neither the U.S. nor the terrorists are winning.

    When President Bush discussed the ongoing war on terrorism, including his wiretapping program, he called for the renewal of the Patriot Act.
    Among speech viewers participating in our survey, 58 percent said they were concerned the government's anti-terror laws won't be made strong enough; 42 percent said their concern is that civil liberties will be restricted. These percentages are nearly the same as in a survey done last week.

    Americans overall have been mostly divided on this issue since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

    Among survey participants who watched the State of the Union speech, 59 percent said they think the President will protect their civil liberties; 41 percent said he will not.

    WILL BUSH PROTECT YOUR CIVIL LIBERTIES?
    (Among speech viewers)

    Yes
    59%
    No
    41%

    On the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush said violence there has not stopped the progress of a new democracy.

    Last week, 45 percent of speech viewers said the results of the war in Iraq had been worth the costs, including the loss of life. Following the speech, 52 percent feel that way – an increase of seven points.

    After last year's State of the Union speech, the number of viewers who said the Iraq war was worth the costs rose 12 points from opinions the week before.

    More viewers now think the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq. Last week, four in 10 said the U.S. was winning but after the speech 52 percent of viewers were convinced the U.S. is winning in Iraq.

    In early January, 48 percent of Americans nationwide said neither side was winning the war in Iraq.

    In his speech, President Bush said "we are on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory."

    Tuesday night, more speech watchers said Mr. Bush has a clear plan for Iraq than said so last week, but almost as many watchers said he doesn't have a plan.

    More than half of speech watchers say going into Iraq was the right thing to do – a similar number said so last week.

    WHO IS WINNING THE WAR IN IRAQ?
    (Among speech viewers)

    After speech
    U.S.
    52%
    Insurgents
    8%
    Neither side
    40%

    Last week
    U.S.
    40%
    Insurgents
    8%
    Neither side
    52%

    On Iran, 69 percent of speech watchers said they view Iraq's neighbor as a threat that can be contained through diplomacy, as the President suggested; 15 percent said Iran is a threat requiring immediate military action; and another 15 percent said Iran is not a threat.

    On health care, 56 percent of speech viewers say President Bush will make the right decisions about reforming the health care system – a turnaround from last week when fewer than half thought he would make the right decisions.

    President Bush announced a plan called the Advanced Energy Initiative which would increase funding for research on alternative energy sources. Viewers seemed to like what the President had to say on energy: 64 percent said he will make the right decisions when it comes to energy conservation and consumption.

    About half of the State of the Union speech watchers, interviewed a week ago, said the president shared their priorities for the country. Now, 56 percent say that he does.

    The president mentioned the commitment the government has made to help the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Just 39 percent of viewers think Mr. Bush has a clear plan for finding housing and jobs for Hurricane Katrina victims, but that is up 11 points from last week.



    This CBS News Poll was conducted online by Knowledge Networks among a nationwide random sample of 734 State of the Union viewers. 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. This is a scientifically representative poll of viewers' reaction to the speech. The margin of sampling error could be plus or minus 4 percentage points for the entire sample of speech watchers.

    Click here for more details on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys.

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