WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A decisive 78% of Americans see Barack Obama's presidential election as at least one of the most historic the nation has had, including 33% who consider it the most historic ever.
Perhaps the recognition of the historic nature of Obama's inauguration explains the dramatic shift in the way Americans view the inaugural celebration compared to recent years. When asked if they consider Obama's inauguration more as a celebration by all Americans of democracy in action or more as a political celebration by his supporters, 55% consider it to be a celebration by all Americans. In stark contrast, fewer than 3 in 10 considered either of George W. Bush's inaugurations a celebration by all Americans.
The dramatic increase in the feeling that Tuesday's inauguration is a celebration by all Americans is evident across all demographic subgroups except for party and ideology, where there is a clear role reversal. Among Democrats, 75% see this year's inauguration as a celebration for all Americans, compared to 13% who said the same in both 2005 and 2001. Among Republicans, 32% see it this way this year, compared to 50% in 2005 and 40% in 2001.
Obama's road to the presidency is of course already historic in that he will be the nation's first African-American president. Yet, it is not just his becoming president that has many Americans excited about Inauguration Day. A majority (56%) expect Obama, widely considered a gifted public speaker, to deliver an "excellent" inauguration speech. That is more than three times the number who expected the same about George W. Bush's inaugural addresses in 2001 and 2005.
Not surprisingly, Democrats are the most enthusiastic about Obama's inauguration -- dwarfing the expectations of Republicans and independents. Still, the fact that more than two-thirds of Republicans (67%) consider Obama's inauguration at least one of the most historic ever suggests widespread consensus that this inauguration is about more than partisan politics.
As Obama takes office as the 44th president of the United States, Americans of all political shades see it as an event of great historical significance. Most expect it to be one of the most historic inaugurations ever, complete with a speech of the highest caliber. The fact that far greater numbers than in recent years see Obama's inauguration as a celebration for all Americans, combined with high approval of his transition and great confidence in his ability to be a good president, underscores the extent to which Obama begins his presidency with the highest of expectations.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,031 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 9-11, 2009. 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.