By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 3, 2007; 7:07 AM
WASHINGTON -- Two of the Democrats' top goals _ a higher minimum wage and federal funding of embryonic stem cell research _ enjoy broad public support as the party takes control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years.
An overwhelming majority also supports making it easier for people to buy prescription drugs from other countries.
But the jury is out on incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Most people say they do not know enough yet to have an opinion of the California Democrat who will be the first woman in that office, an Associated Press-AOL News poll found.
The survey results come as the 110th Congress is set to convene at noon Thursday, with Democrats eager to keep their promises to pass several pieces of legislation in the first 100 hours of business, including the minimum wage increase and stem cell research funding. Voters, exasperated by investigations into the ethics of GOP lawmakers and unhappy with the situation in Iraq, toppled Republican majorities in the House and Senate last November.
Democrats will hold a 233-202 edge in the House and will control the Senate by 51-49.
A boost to the $5.15-an-hour federal minimum wage would be the first since 1997. Democratic leaders have proposed raising it in stages to $7.25 an hour. President Bush has said he supports the idea, along with help for small businesses.
Fully 80 percent of survey respondents favor an increase, too.
Support is strongest among Democrats, 91 percent, while 65 percent of Republicans back the idea. Women, men without college degrees and single women all are especially likely to favor a minimum wage hike.
Nearly seven of 10 adults, 69 percent, favor the government taking steps to make it easier for people to buy prescription drugs from other countries, where some medicines cost significantly less than in the U.S.
Importing prescription drugs to the United States is illegal, but the Food and Drug Administration generally does not bar individuals from bringing in small amounts for personal use. At the same time, the government has estimated that buying drugs from other countries would do little to influence what they cost at home.
Some 56 percent of adults support easing restrictions on using federal money to pay for research on embryonic stem cells. Supporters say such research could lead to treatments for everything from Parkinson's disease to spinal cord injuries. Bush and other opponents say the embryos from which the cells are extracted are human lives that should not be destroyed in the name of science.
Bush kept a promise in 2001 when he limited federally funded research to lines of embryonic stem cells that had been created by that time. Last summer, he used the first veto of his presidency to reject a bill that would have directed more federal dollars toward embryonic stem cell research.
Democrats have pledged to reverse that outcome, setting up a possible veto showdown with the president.
Achieving the Democrats' goals could help Pelosi raise her public profile.
She is the first woman to lead a party caucus in either house of Congress _ she was elected leader of the House Democrats in 2002 _ and now will be the first female speaker, second in line to succeed the president.
Yet as much as the 10-term congresswoman has been in the news over the years and, more recently, since the Democratic election rout on Nov. 7, people say they just don't know her.
More than five in 10 adults, 55 percent, don't know enough yet about Pelosi to have an opinion of her. Those with opinions to share were split, with 22 percent viewing her favorably and 22 percent unfavorably.
The telephone survey of 1,004 adults was conducted Dec. 19-21 by Ipsos, an international public opinion research company. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
AP Manager of News Surveys Trevor Tompson and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
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