Poll: On deficit, immigration, guns, public in sync with Obama

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, and Fred Backus

As President Obama prepares to update Congress and Americans about his agenda at tonight's State of the Union address, a new CBS News poll shows he receives public support for many of his policies.

Americans favor a combination of spending cuts and taxes to tackle the deficit (59 percent); stricter guns laws (53 percent); drone strikes against suspected terrorists overseas (71 percent); a path to citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children (74 percent); and development of alternative energy sources (68 percent).

The Budget Deficit

While the economy and jobs are the top concern for Americans, the budget deficit comes in a distant second.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans favor a combination of taxes and spending cuts as the best way to reduce the deficit, while 32 percent favor only cutting federal spending.

Gun Policy

Views on changes to gun control laws are similar to last month, with 53 percent saying they should be made stricter, 10 percent saying they should be made less strict and 34 percent saying they should be kept as they are.

There continue to be differences along party lines on this issue, with most Republicans wanting gun laws to be kept as they are now (60 percent) and most Democrats wanting stricter gun laws (78 percent).

A majority of Americans - regardless of whether or not they want stricter gun laws - think it is at least somewhat likely that significant changes to gun policy will be made this year, but only 27 percent think that is very likely to happen. Thirty-two percent think it's not very likely or not at all likely to happen.

Americans overwhelmingly (91 percent) approve of universal background checks on all potential gun buyers. Smaller majorities also approve of two other proposals by the Obama Administration for curbing gun violence: a national ban on semi-automatic "assault" weapons (53 percent), and a national ban on high-capacity magazines (59 percent).

Gun owners support universal background checks (90 percent), but they oppose bans on semi-automatic weapons (64 percent) or high capacity magazine clips (57 percent).

Fifty-four percent of Americans think stricter gun laws would help deter gun violence at least somewhat, including 21 percent who think that would deter it a lot. Gun owners are far more skeptical than Americans who don't own a firearm.

But gun owners agree with Americans who don't own guns on two other measures to reduce gun violence that have recently been endorsed by the NRA: better mental health screening and treatment, and more police and armed security guards. Eighty-one percent of Americans think better mental health screening would help at least somewhat to reduce gun violence overall, and 75 percent think more police and armed security guards would help at least somewhat to curb mass shootings in public places such as schools, movie theaters, and malls.