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Americans Tell Obama What They Want to Hear in Speech

Americans Tell Obama What They Want to Hear in Speech

PRINCETON, NJ -- As President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, three in four Americans -- 74% -- say they are most eager to hear what he has to say about the nation's economic challenges. That includes 18% who specifically want to hear his ideas about the jobs situation.


A new USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted Feb. 20-22, asked Americans to name the issues they most want to hear Obama address in his speech Tuesday night. The U.S. economy is referenced in various ways by 74% of Americans. More specifically, 18% of Americans say they would most like to see Obama talk about jobs, job creation, or unemployment in his speech. Nearly as many, 15%, mention the banking crisis or banking bailouts. Fourteen percent mention the recently adopted $787 billion economic stimulus package, including some who specifically say they want Obama to explain how the money will be spent.

Another 11% specifically want to hear Obama's plans for addressing the nation's housing and mortgage crisis, and an additional 10% want him to discuss healthcare.

While the economic downturn is clearly Issue No. 1 for the president and Congress to deal with right now, a third of Americans remain interested in what Obama has to say on at least one non-economic issue. Chief among these is the United States' military involvement in Iraq (4%), Afghanistan (3%), or both (5%). Another 3% want Obama to discuss U.S. foreign policy, 2% say national defense, and 1% cite the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the Middle East. A net 17% of Americans name at least one of these military or foreign policy issues.

A smattering of other issues are each mentioned by fewer than 5% of Americans, including education (4%), government corruption (2%), illegal immigration (2%), and energy (1%).


Given Obama's high job approval ratings among fellow Democrats, anything he says Tuesday night will most likely be well-received by that part of the television audience. To the extent he wants to make greater inroads with Republicans, the new poll suggests Obama should spend some time discussing the banking crisis, as well as the stimulus package and how it will be spent. Republicans show more interest than Democrats in what Obama has to say on both topics.

Democrats are more interested than Republicans in hearing about jobs and unemployment, as well as the housing crisis, healthcare, and education.


Bottom Line

Americans are deeply concerned about the U.S. economy, evidenced by the 78% now holding a negative view of economic conditions, and the growing percentage of U.S. workers reporting that hiring conditions where they work are getting worse. Gallup also recently reported that the rate of Americans' retail spending is down sharply from a year ago. While Obama and the 111th Congress have been hard at work trying to address the many serious economic problems contributing to consumer worry, Americans are hardly weary of hearing about the issue: They want Obama to focus on it when he speaks before Congress on Tuesday.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,013 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 20-22, 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.



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