Poll Finds Positive Outlook on Obama’s Second Term as Inauguration Day Approaches

Republicans may be worrying about their future, but most Americans overall have a positive outlook as President Obama prepares to begin his second term.

As President Obama prepares for his second inauguration on Monday, findings from a recent Harris poll show that a slight majority of Americans are feeling hopeful about the president’s second four-year term in the Oval Office.

Just over half (52 percent) of U.S. adults describe themselves as very or somewhat happy about Obama beginning his second term, considerably more than indicate being very or somewhat upset (39 percent). Similarly, nearly half of Americans (47 percent) believe things will be better for the country at the end of the president’s second term, putting this sentiment well ahead of feelings that things will be much or somewhat worse (35 percent) or exactly the same (18 percent). Responses largely fell along party lines, as anticipated; political independents were evenly split on these questions, but were more divided on specific issues including jobs, gun control and education, the pollsters say.

These are some of the results of a Harris poll of 2,166 U.S. adults surveyed online between January 7 and 9.

Four More Years

While independents fall evenly across both camps, amongst Republicans and Democrats feelings about the president beginning his second term are squarely split by party policy:

86% of Democrats agree they are very or somewhat happy. 83% of Republicans report feeling very or somewhat upset. Political independents are evenly split, with 43% conveying happiness and 44% in the camp of very or somewhat upset. Independents are also divided as to whether things will be better (41%) or worse (39%) for the U.S. at the end of Obama’s second term, with one in five (20%) expecting things will remain exactly the same. Ratings have largely improved for the President over the past two years in terms of how well Americans feel he is tackling hot button topics. Issues where Obama’s combined “Excellent” + “Pretty good” overall job ratings show the most dramatic improvements include:

Jobs (29% in February 2011 to 39% in January 2013), Education (39% to 47%), Healthcare (37% to 43%) and The economy (33% to 39%).

The Road Ahead

When asked which two domestic issues from a provided list they would like to see the Obama administration focus on first, the economy tops the list at 61%, followed by jobs (45%) and more distantly by healthcare (28%).

Independents, typically expected to fall between Republicans and Democrats, in many cases show stronger affiliation with one party or another, depending on the issue.

Independents’ priorities resemble those of Republicans for:

Jobs (49% Republican, 39% Democrat, 48% independent), immigration (18%-9%-16%) and gun control (10%-26%-8%). Priority levels are more closely aligned with Democrats on:

Education (8% Republican, 19% Democrat, 19% Independent) and The environment (3%-9%-11%). When asked, unprompted, to name the one issue or concern they felt was the most important for Obama and his administration to address, after the economy, healthcare was the top response at nearly 1 in 5 adults (17%):

Healthcare (17%), Jobs/Unemployment (10%), National debt/deficit/government spending (8%), Gun control (7%). Women are more likely to prioritize healthcare above all other issues, at 21% as compared with 13% for men. Finally, results show marked changes since January 2009 in several key issues:

Healthcare is down slightly (21% to 17%), Jobs/unemployment mentions have doubled (5% to 10%), National debt/deficit/government spending has gone from an also-ran (1%) to the third most frequent mention (8%) and Gun control related comments have gone from negligible mentions in 2009 to Americans’ fourth highest current priority (<1% to 7%).

Women are more likely to prioritize healthcare above all other issues, at 21% as compared with 13% for men. Finally, results show marked changes since January 2009 in several key issues:

Healthcare is down slightly (21% to 17%), Jobs/unemployment mentions have doubled (5% to 10%), National debt/deficit/government spending has gone from an also-ran (1%) to the third most frequent mention (8%) and Gun control related comments have gone from negligible mentions in 2009 to Americans’ fourth highest current priority (<1% to 7%).

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