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Taking the public's pulse on business, politics, and culture, by KARLYN BOWMAN.
Long Live the King 01/06/2010 

Had he lived, Elvis Presley would have been 75 years old on January 8. In July 2009, the Pew Research Center asked people about 20 musical groups or performers. In the poll, nearly eight in ten said they liked Elvis and only 14 percent said they disliked him. Looking at the different age groups, those 65 and older ranked Elvis third (behind Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash) and those 50 to 64 years old also ranked him third (behind the Beatles and the Eagles) among those musicians they liked a lot. He fell far back in the rankings among other age groups. In an ABC News poll from 2002, 49 percent reported they were fans of the King, while 51 percent said they were not. Eighty-five percent said they thought he made a positive impact on American culture, but in another question, only 5 percent rated him as an excellent role model for Americans today, with another 34 percent saying he was a good one. Although he is long dead, 7 percent of those responding to a CBS News poll from 2002 said it was possible he was still alive.

Source: Pew Research Center, July 2009.

Healthcare Leaders 01/05/2010 

Democratic leaders have indicated that they may bypass formal (and public) conference committee deliberations to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of healthcare legislation. The latest polls on healthcare show majorities disapproving of how President Obama has handled the issue. Although Republicans in Congress have made gains since the summer on handling healthcare reform, these same polls show that people trust the president more than Republicans lawmakers on the issue.

Note: Question wording varied slightly.

Source: ABC News/Washington Post and Quinnipiac University, December 2009.

Presidential Expectations 01/04/2010 

We greet our presidents with high expectations. In a March CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 86 percent of those surveyed said they hoped that President Obama’s policies would succeed. A strong 71 percent are still hopeful. But when asked about whether it is more likely that his policies will succeed or fail, a bare majority, 52 percent, are optimistic, but 41 percent pessimistic. In another question in the survey, 39 percent of respondents said Obama’s handling of his job had met their expectations, 11 percent said he had exceeded their expectations, and 48 percent said he had fallen short.

Source: CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, December 2009.

Congress’s Ratings 12/22/2009 

In the latest Gallup/USA Today poll, a quarter of those surveyed approved of the job Congress was doing. Just 42 percent of Democrats approved of the Democratic Congress. The December NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll provided overwhelmingly negative views about the overall accomplishments of Congress, too. The new findings were lower than they have been at any time since the pollsters first asked the question in 1990—they are even lower than they were in October 1994, before Republicans swept control of Congress. In the new poll, 7 percent rated this year’s Congress as one of the best or above average, a third called it average, and 58 percent said it was below average or one of the worst.

Source: NBC News/Wall Street Journal, latest that of December 2009.

Healthcare Concerns 12/22/2009 

As the Senate prepares to pass healthcare legislation, Americans are growing more skittish. In two polls conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal in September and October, more people said it was better to pass President Obama’s healthcare plan and make its changes to the healthcare system than said it was better not to pass it and keep the current healthcare system. Those responses flipped in December, reflecting public anxiety about congressional action. In a December Quinnipiac poll, 31 percent said the president and Congress needed to address healthcare reform now and that they supported the proposals currently being considered, 28 percent said that the president and Congress needed to address the issue now, but that they didn’t support the current proposals, and 36 percent said they didn’t think the president and Congress should reform healthcare now. In a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 50 percent said their own care would be better if the current system was left as it is, while 37 percent said their own care would be better if the changes became law.

Source: NBC News/Wall Street Journal, latest that of December 2009.

Terrorist Attacks 12/16/2009 

In a new Pew Research Center poll, a 44 percent plurality said there had not been another terrorist attack in the United States mostly because “the government is doing a good job protecting the country.” Eleven percent said it was mostly because America is an inherently difficult target for terrorists, and 35 percent said it was because we have been lucky. In the poll, 52 percent said the danger of attack on the United States with a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapon was greater now than ten years ago, 35 percent said the danger was about the same, and 10 percent said the danger is less now than a decade ago.  

Source: Pew Research Center in association with the Council on Foreign Relations, October-November 2009.

Keep Us No.1 12/16/2009 

In a new Pew Research Center survey, 57 percent of respondents told surveyors that U.S. policies “should try to keep it so America is the only military superpower,” while 29 percent answered that it would be “acceptable if China, another country, or the European Union becomes as militarily powerful as the United States.” Pew also surveyed members of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Forty-nine percent of CFR members wanted to keep the United States number one militarily, but 43 percent said it was okay for another country to surpass us. In the poll, 46 percent of the general public wanted to keep defense spending about the same, 26 percent wanted to  increase it, and 23 percent wanted to decrease it.

Source: Pew Research Center in association with the Council on Foreign Relations, October-November 2009.

Globaloney 12/15/2009 

In a new Harris Interactive survey, 51 percent of Americans said they believed that “increased carbon dioxide and other gases released into the atmosphere will, if unchecked, lead to global warming and an increase in average temperatures.” This is the lowest response on the question since Harris began asking it 12 years ago. Other polls show a similar movement of opinion. Most of the new polls were taken before the Climategate scandal broke. Opinions are more polarized on the issue now than in the past: 28 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of Democrats answered affirmatively to the Harris question.

Source: Harris Interactive, November 2009.

Afghanistan and Obama 12/14/2009 

Most polls taken since President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan show support outweighing opposition for his proposal to send an additional 30,000 troops. Deep partisan divisions endure, with members of the president’s own party much less supportive of his proposal than Republicans. In the new CBS News/New York Times poll, 51 percent of Americans approved of sending the additional troops, while 43 percent disapproved. Slightly more than two-thirds of Republicans, 68 percent, supported the decision, while a majority of Democrats, 53 percent, opposed it. Thirty percent said things were going well in Afghanistan, a slight uptick from the 23 percent who gave that response in November. Four in ten said it was a good idea for the president to set a date to begin withdrawing troops, but 55 percent said it was not.

Source: CBS News/New York Times, December 2009.

Healthcare for the Uninsured 12/11/2009 

On five occasions this year, the Kaiser Family Foundation has asked people whether they “would be willing to pay more—either in higher health insurance premiums or higher taxes—in order to increase the number of Americans who have health insurance.” The responses of those who indicated that they would be willing to pay more have ranged from a low of 42 percent in the latest poll to a high of 51 percent in July. The responses from the new poll are shown in the graph. In follow-up questions Kaiser previously asked, those indicating they were willing to pay more have been willing to pay modest sums.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, November 2009.