The Washington Post

Obama faces deeply divided nation in State of the Union address

A fragile majority of Americans give President Obama's second term agenda positive initial marks in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, even as stubborn partisan division and disaffection with Washington politics define public sentiment ahead of Tuesday's State of the Union address.

President Obama shakes hands during his 2012 State of the Union address. AP photo

Just over half of the public (52 percent) has a favorable view of the policies Obama will pursue in his second term, while 43 percent regard them unfavorably. Fully six in 10 hold "strongly" positive (30 percent) or strongly negative views  (30 percent) of Obama's policy agenda -- a remarkable level of passion given that it is less than one month since his second term inauguration.

While the news is barely good for Obama, Republicans in Congress fare much worse. Fewer than four in 10 (36 percent) give positive marks to the GOP's policy plans over the next four years while more than half, 55 percent, offer unfavorable reviews.

Obama will almost certainly declare the "strong" state of the union in Tuesday's speech but a majority of people are unhappy about our politics; 56 percent of the public has an unfavorable view of the country's political system, including majorities of both Republicans and independents.

Obama's second-term policies are a unifying force for Democrats and Republicans. Nearly nine in 10 Democrats (87 percent) are favorable towards Obama's agenda, while 86 percent of Republicans oppose it. And while seven in 10 Republicans are "strongly unfavorable" towards Obama's second term plans, less than half as many (32 percent) are "strongly favorable" toward policies of congressional Republicans.

Americans without a rooting interest are jaded by the process. Nearly one-fifth of the public (19 percent) has unfavorable views of both Obama's and Republicans' policies, including more than a quarter of political independents. Among those who reject both agendas, over three quarters have an unfavorable view of the country's political system.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted February 6-10 among a random national sample of 1,021 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full survey is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Click here to see question wording, results and interactive breakdowns.

Clement and Craighill are pollsters with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. Jon Cohen, Director of Polling, contributed to this report.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
What to expect at tonight's debate
Tonight's debate is likely to focus on the concerns of African American and Latino voters. Clinton has focused in recent days on issues like gun control, criminal-sentencing reform, and the issues with drinking water in Flint, Mich. But Sanders has been aggressively moving to appeal to the same voters, combining his core message about economic unfairness with his own calls to reform the criminal-justice system.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as he heads into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
Clinton in New Hampshire: 2008 vs. 2015
Hillary Clinton did about as well in N.H. this year as she did in 2008, percentage-wise. In the state's main counties, Clinton performed on average only about two percentage points worse than she did eight years ago (according to vote totals as of Wednesday morning) -- and in five of the 10 counties, she did as well or better.
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.