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Americans Think Bush Will Improve Education and Maintain Prosperity, Less Sure about Social Security and Healthcare

Americans Think Bush Will Improve Education and Maintain Prosperity, Less Sure about Social Security and Healthcare

Americans generally favor Bush policies, but 44% say United States will be worse off in four years

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- President George W. Bush begins his first week in office with the American public's relatively strong support for the direction of his policies, but with some sense of foreboding about what may be to come. The public's priorities for the Bush administration are similar to those measured throughout last year's presidential campaign. Education leads the list, followed by keeping the country prosperous, and addressing Social Security, healthcare, and the cost of prescription drugs for seniors. The public is fairly optimistic that Bush will be able to improve education and keep the country prosperous, but less convinced that he will be able to fix Social Security or improve healthcare.

Majority Says Bush's Policies Will Move Country in Right Direction
Despite the neck-and-neck nature of the contentious presidential contest this past year, a clear majority of Americans believe that President Bush's policies will move the country in the right direction rather than the wrong direction -- by a 56% to 36% margin. Additionally, Bush himself has a healthy 62% favorable rating (just 36% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the president), and a majority of Americans interviewed before his inauguration on Saturday said they approved of his cabinet appointments and of the way he was handling the transition. Nonetheless, expectations for the next four years are somewhat muted compared to eight years ago, when Bill Clinton took office. Only 46% of Americans today say they believe the country will be better off four years from now, while almost as many -- 42% -- believe the country will be worse off. By contrast, in November 1992, 51% of the public was optimistic that the country would be better off in four years while just 31% thought things would be worse.

These differences no doubt reflect the different economic environments into which the two presidents took office. Clinton won the presidency at a time when Americans believed the United States was in an economic recession, so perhaps it was less of a leap of faith to forecast that the country would be getting better four years hence, particularly with Bill "It's The Economy Stupid" Clinton taking the helm. Bush is taking office after two years of record-high public evaluations of the economy (leaving relatively little room for improvement) and at the beginning of what appears to be growing public concern about the nation's economic outlook.

Low expectations, of course, may not be bad for the Bush administration. Bush himself, in the weeks prior to his inauguration, repeatedly said that he was worried about the direction of the economy, perhaps helping to create the type of diminished economic expectations picked up in the new poll.

Americans Optimistic That Education and Prosperity Will be Successfully Handled by Bush Administration
Gallup asked Americans about their priorities for the Bush administration in a January 5-7 survey, and found the following.

TOP/HIGH PRIORITY SUMMARY TABLE

 

 

Top
priority

High
priority

Top/High
priority

       
 

%

%

%

Improving education

50

44

94

Keeping America prosperous

43

48

91

Ensuring the long-term strength of the Social Security system

46

43

89

Helping senior citizens pay for prescription drugs

42

46

88

Keeping the federal budget balanced

40

48

88

Ensuring the long-term strength of the Medicare system

40

48

88

Improving the healthcare system

43

44

87

Providing military security for the country

39

46

85

Improving conditions for minorities and the poor

30

50

80

Reducing the use of illegal drugs in America

36

42

78

Improving the quality of the environment

30

48

78

Improving race relations

28

47

75

Cutting federal income taxes

26

39

65

Improving the way political campaigns are financed

25

35

60



In Gallup's most recent poll, conducted January 15-16, Americans were asked whether they feel the Bush administration would, or would not, be able to accomplish a number of objectives. The results can be split into three groups: 1) those that a majority of Americans think Bush will be able to accomplish, 2) those which Americans doubt Bush will accomplish, and 3) those on which the public is about evenly split.

Here are the six objectives that more than half of Americans say Bush will able to accomplish (within each group, those objectives that are high priorities for Americans arebolded):

  1. Improve military security for the country
  2. Improve education
  3. Keep America prosperous
  4. Increase respect for the presidency
  5. Improve respect for the United States abroad
  6. Improve moral values in the United States

Here are the things that 50% or more of the public says Bush willnotbe able to accomplish:

  1. Heal political divisions
  2. Improve the quality of the environment
  3. Improve race relations
  4. Reduce the crime rate
  5. Improve conditions for the disadvantaged and the poor

There are five objectives on which the public's expectations are about evenly split:

  1. Ensure long-term strength of the Social Security system
  2. Keep the federal budget balanced
  3. Ensure the long term strength of the Medicare system
  4. Cut your taxes
  5. Improve the healthcare system

Clearly, Americans see three of the objectives as being within the reach of the new Bush administration -- improving respect for the presidency, improving moral values and improving respect for the United States abroad. (These attitudes may result from a contrast effect with the departed Clinton administration, with which the public was less likely to associate the words "respect" and "moral"). It is perhaps not surprising, given both the legacy of Bush's father, and his own public pronouncements, that Americans give improving military security a high probability of success under the new Bush administration.

Education is quite an important issue area -- President Bush declared it one of his highest priorities during his campaign, and the American public says it is their most important concerns. Thus, education is an issue that is "in sync" between the president and the public, one with high expectations for success, and it has the potential to be one of the key focus points for the new Bush administration.

It is apparent that many Americans are skeptical of quick fixes to several of the more intractable problems faced by the country: race relations, the environment, crime, and the problems of the disadvantaged and the poor (none of which, however, are among the highest priorities for Americans). Also, the public is not highly optimistic that Bush will be able to heal the political divisions within the country that were exacerbated by the post-election controversy in Florida.

The healthcare issue is interesting -- unlike education, Americans are significantly more skeptical that Bush will be able to fix the problem. It may be that Americans perceive Bush to have a track record of some success with education in Texas, and/or it may simply be that Americans' own experiences lead them to believe that the education situation in this country is amenable to repair. At the same time, it's possible that the high profile efforts of Bill and Hillary Clinton to reform the country's healthcare system -- widely considered to be a dramatic failure -- explain the pessimistic views of Americans about the issue.

Finally, three of the public's four most important priorities, as well as the public's expectations for success, lie in the middle range: Social Security, balancing the federal budget, and Medicare. It is important to note that tax cuts, a high priority for Bush but not necessarily for the public, are given only a mid-range probability of actually becoming law.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,055 adults, 18 years and older, conducted January 15-16, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. 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.

Next I have some questions about the Bush administration which will take office later this month. Regardless of which presidential candidate you preferred, do you think the Bush administration will or will not be able to do each of the following? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Keep the federal budget balanced

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

%

%

%

George W. Bush

2001 Jan 15-16

50

46

4

Bill Clinton

1993 Feb 16-17 ^

50

45

5

1993 Feb 12-14 ^

46

48

6

1992 Nov 10-11 ^

38

54

8

George Bush, the elder

1989 Jan 24-25 ^

39

46

15

1988 Nov 14-Dec 4

33

52

15

^

WORDING: Reduce the federal budget deficit



B. Keep America prosperous

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

George W. Bush

2001 Jan 15-16

63%

33

4

George Bush, the elder

1989 Jan 24-25

74%

15

10

1988 Nov 14-Dec 4

65%

23

12



C. Improve respect for the United States abroad

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

%

%

%

George W. Bush

2001 Jan 15-16

58

38

4

Bill Clinton

1992 Nov 10-11 ^

50

40

10

George Bush, the elder

1989 Jan 24-25 ^

74

15

11

1988 Nov 14-Dec 4 ^

64

24

12

Ronald Reagan

1980 Nov 21-24 ^

62

24

14

^

WORDING: Increase respect for the United States abroad



D. Improve education

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

George W. Bush

2001 Jan 15-16

66%

32

2

Bill Clinton

1992 Nov 10-11

69%

25

6

George Bush, the elder

1988 Nov 14-Dec 4

61%

30

9



E. Improve the quality of the environment

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

George W. Bush

2001 Jan 15-16

42%

52

6

Bill Clinton

1992 Nov 10-11

64%

29

7

George Bush, the elder

1989 Jan 24-25

62%

26

12

1988 Nov 14-Dec 4

50%

36

14



F. Improve conditions for the disadvantaged and the poor

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

George W. Bush

2001 Jan 15-16

44%

51

5

Bill Clinton

1992 Nov 10-11 ^

68%

27

5

George Bush, the elder

1988 Nov 14-Dec 4 ^

39%

48

13

^

WORDING: Improve conditions for minorities and the poor



G. Cut your taxes

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

George W. Bush

2001 Jan 15-16

49%

46

5

Bill Clinton

1993 Feb 12-14 ^

15%

82

3

1992 Nov 10-11 ^

20%

74

6

George Bush, the elder

1989 Jan 24-25 ^

29%

64

8

1988 Nov 14-Dec 4 ^

24%

68

8

^

WORDING: Avoid raising your taxes



H. Improve the healthcare system

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

George W. Bush

2001 Jan 15-16

46%

49

5

Bill Clinton

1992 Nov 10-11

64%

30

6



I. Improve military security for the country

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

2001 Jan 15-16

81%

16

3



J. Ensure the long-term strength of the Social Security system

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

2001 Jan 15-16

50%

44

6



K. Ensure the long-term strength of the Medicare system

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

2001 Jan 15-16

49%

44

7



L. Improve race relations

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

2001 Jan 15-16

44%

51

5



M. Increase respect for the presidency

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

2001 Jan 15-16

61%

36

3



N. Improve moral values in the United States

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

2001 Jan 15-16

55%

41

4



O. Heal political divisions in this country

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

2001 Jan 15-16

41%

53

6



P. Reduce the crime rate

 

Will

Will not

No opinion

George W. Bush

2001 Jan 15-16

44%

50

6

George Bush, the elder

1989 Jan 24-25 ^

39%

49

12

1988 Nov 14-Dec 4 ^

36%

52

12

^

WORDING: Reduce the crime rate in the United States



Q.10 CONTINUED

WILL/WILL NOT SUMMARY TABLE

 

Will

Will not

%

%

Improve military security for the country

81

16

Improve education

66

32

Keep America prosperous

63

33

Increase respect for the presidency

61

36

Improve respect for the United States abroad

58

38

Improve moral values in the United States

55

41

Ensure the long-term strength of the Social Security system

50

44

Keep the federal budget balanced

50

46

Ensure the long-term strength of the Medicare system

49

44

Cut your taxes

49

46

Improve the healthcare system

46

49

Improve conditions for the disadvantaged and the poor

44

51

Reduce the crime rate

44

50

Improve race relations

44

51

Improve the quality of the environment

42

52

Heal political divisions in this country

41

53




Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/2089/Americans-Think-Bush-Will-Improve-Education-Maintain-Prosperity.aspx
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