An Even More Partisan Agenda for 2008

With the economy slowing and the stock market reeling, there is greater agreement among Republicans and Democrats that strengthening the nation's economy should be a top priority for the president and Congress in the coming year. By contrast, partisan differences over the importance of other domestic issues – such as dealing with global warming, helping the poor and providing health insurance to the uninsured – have all increased substantially over the past year.

As President Bush prepares for his final State of the Union address on Jan. 28, opinions about his administration's legacy, already fairly negative, have declined further. Fully 59% say the Bush administration's failures will outweigh its accomplishments, while just 28% believe the Bush administration will be remembered more for its accomplishments. A year ago, a smaller majority (53%) believed the administration's failures would be more enduring than its successes.

The annual survey on the public's policy agenda shows that substantially more Republicans and independents view strengthening the economy as a top priority than did so in January 2007. Partisan differences over the importance of bolstering the nation's economy, which were fairly sizable at the start of last year, have disappeared.

However, far fewer Republicans rate dealing with global warming, expanding access to health insurance and helping the poor as top concerns – and partisan disagreements over the importance of those issues have increased considerably. Only about a quarter of Republicans (27%) say that providing health insurance to the uninsured should be a top priority, down 17 points from January 2007. More than twice as many Democrats (65%) and independents (58%) now rate this as a major policy goal.

There is a similar pattern in views about the importance of dealing with the problems of the poor and global warming. A year ago, global warming was the lowest-ranking agenda item for Republicans of 23 issues mentioned; just 23% viewed it as a top priority. This year, it has fallen even further – just 12% of Republicans cite global warming as a top priority, less than half the proportion naming the next lowest rated issue (27% for providing health insurance to the uninsured).

Democrats currently are about four times more likely than Republicans to rate global warming as a major priority (47% vs. 12%), a much greater gap than in January 2007 (48% Democrat vs. 23% Republican).

The latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,515 adults, finds signs of considerable unease with the nation's economy. In the survey, conducted before this week's stock market fluctuations, just 26% rate the economy as excellent or good, while 73% say it is only fair or poor.

While opinions about the economy have not declined since fall, they are the most negative economic ratings at the beginning of any presidential year since 1992. In January 2004, 37% had a positive view of the economy, while 63% expressed a negative opinion.

Read the full report An Even More Partisan Agenda for 2008 on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.

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