01/22/2007 11:42 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

State of the Union? Pessimistic

A weakened George W. Bush will take to the bully pulpit Tuesday night to rally a nation pessimistic about the future, where just 29% of likely voters say the country is on the right track, new Zogby Interactive polling suggests.

Our newest online poll of likely voters finds widespread doubt about the direction of the nation, whether the Iraq War is winnable, and the health of the global environment. The Zogby Interactive survey of 5,641 likely voters was conducted Jan. 17 through 19, and has a margin of error of +/- 1.3 percentage points.

The negative outlook on the nation's direction is widespread. While 59% of respondents overall say the country is heading in the wrong direction, even large portions of the President's political base express doubts. Among Republicans, 56% say the nation is heading in the right direction. Just 36% of men, 32% of whites, and 44% of Evangelicals--all groups that backed the President in 2004--say the same. By contrast, 86% of Democrats say the nation is heading in the wrong direction.

These widespread doubts come against a clear backdrop of war and fears over security. Asked about the top issues facing the country, 34% said the War in Iraq, while another 20% named terrorism or security, making these the top issues impacting the nation. Immigration, meanwhile, was a distant third, at 13%. Women were particularly acute in their concerns over the four-year-old war, with 40% naming it the top issue impacting the nation. And, as Congressional Democrats take up the task of governing, 55% of voters from their party see the war as the top issue.

All of this comes as the President's personal unfavorable rating reaches 58% in the survey.

Voters Unclear About Democrats' Agenda

Two weeks into their reign of power in Congress, majorities of Americans expressed doubt as to what constituted Congressional Democrats' agenda on key issues, most notably the Iraq War.

While 46% of Americans said that Congressional Democrats have a clear agenda for government policy overall, 50% said they do not. But on the Iraq War, voters are even more doubtful, with just 34% agreeing that Democrats have a clear strategy. A full 62% said they believed the Democrats do not have a clear strategy for the war.

A similarly low percentage, 36%, said that Congressional Democrats have a clear agenda for the war on terror, while 59% said they do not. On both questions of war, while Republican respondents were strident in their doubts about the Democratic agenda, even large majorities of independents said they did not believe Congressional Democrats had a clear agenda.

This stands in stark contrast to the issue of taxes, where 57% of likely voters in the poll said Congressional Democrats had a clear plan--including 38% of Republicans, 50% of independents, and 80% of Democrats.

American voters in the survey expressed doubts about the overall impact Democratic control of Congress will have on both the nation and their own lives. Respondents were evenly split at 48% apiece over whether the nation would improve as a result of Democratic control of both Houses of Congress. While 42% said they expect their own lives to improve as a result of the Democratic takeover, 50% did not expect their lives to be improved.

War Unpopular, and Doubts About Options

The Iraq War continues to get negative marks, with just 34% of likely voters saying that the conflict has been worth the loss of American lives. Yet a higher 45% say they support the war, while a 53% majority say they oppose the ongoing conflict. And passion is clearly on the side of the war's opponents - just 28% of voters call themselves strong supporters of the war and 45% say they strongly oppose it.

Voters also seemed to express a willingness to abandon the Iraq War. Given a number of options for a new strategy, plans for a phased withdrawal seemed the most popular:

zogby sotu chart500.jpgClick for larger chart

Public Uneasy on Terror, But Concede Nation Safer Than on 9/11

President Bush gains mixed reviews on the safety of the nation, post-9/11. Half of survey respondents (50%) said the nation is safer from terror now than on 9/11.

But it's unclear whether the President gets credit for that. A 49% plurality said they feel less safe with George W. Bush as president, while 41% say they feel safer with him as commander-in-chief. This number even reflects some weakness among the President's GOP base, with just 80% of Republicans saying they feel safer with him in the Oval Office and a full 9% saying they feel less safe.

Despite their belief the nation is safer, there is an air of inevitability about terrorism occurring again on American soil. Eight in nine Americans--87%--said the U.S. will be attacked by terrorists again, while just 7% expressed doubt. Among those believing an attack is likely, 44% strongly agreed while 43% only somewhat agreed an attack was inevitable.

Among those most certain of another terror attack, more than half expect it will occur within two years.

Global Warming a Hot Topic

The President is expected to acknowledge concerns over possible global warming even as new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi forms a new subcommittee tasked with addressing the phenomenon. This reflects a political reality in which 49% of American voters say global warming is a serious weather phenomenon demanding government attention, while a 66% majority say it is likely the phenomenon is real.

However, it is questionable what solutions voters are prepared to embrace. Forty-two percent said the U.S. should ratify the Kyoto Treaty on Global Climate Change, compared to 38% who said the government should not ratify the controversial document. However, when those same voters were informed that Kyoto exempts other industrial powers like China and Russia from the restrictions that would be imposed on the U.S. and other western nations by the treaty, support fell while opposition solidified, with 50% saying the U.S. should not ratify the agreement and just 37% saying the government should enter into the treaty.