WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An overwhelming majority of Americans (84%) believe the next U.S. president will face challenges that are more serious than what other new presidents have faced, though Barack Obama supporters are slightly more likely to say this than are John McCain supporters.
When a follow-up question is asked of those who say the challenges will be "more serious," the combined results of the two questions show nearly half of Americans (44%) going so far as to see the next president's challenges as the most serious in half a century. While it's clear that all Americans, no matter their candidate preference, see significant challenges ahead for the new president, far more Obama supporters (52%) than McCain supporters (34%) choose the most serious option.
While one might presume that different challenges come to mind for Obama supporters and McCain supporters, the USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Oct. 10-12 finds both camps in agreement as to what the new president's top priority should be when he takes office in January. Two out of three in each group think the new president should focus first on stabilizing the U.S. economy, outnumbering by roughly 6 to 1 those who would like the new president to prioritize managing the nation's ongoing wars or developing new sources of energy.
Most Americans, no matter whom they would like to see elected president, agree that their new leader will face more serious challenges than other new presidents have, and nearly half believe these will be the most serious a president has faced in the last 50 years. While Obama voters are more likely than McCain voters to see those challenges as the most serious in half a century, supporters of both candidates are united in their view that stabilizing the U.S. economy should be the new president's top priority. Together, these data suggest that even after a long and contentious presidential campaign, the importance of the work ahead has not been lost on Americans, and that the public is ready to send a clear mandate to the next president on what he should tackle first.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,269 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 10-12, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.