The American public continues to have a mixed opinion about free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the WTO. On balance they are seen as a good thing for the country, but Americans are divided over the impact of free trade agreements on their own personal financial situations.
Once again, public opinion played a major role in the most important news stories of the year. Some of the strongest 2006 trends in public opinion carried over from previous years -- notably growing concern about the Iraq war and mounting dissatisfaction with the performance of the Republican-controlled Congress.
Politicians and political reporters are scrambling to book flights for New Hampshire and other presidential primary states, but the public is far from engaged in the jockeying for 2008.
The public has grown more negative about the situation in Iraq and President Bush's handling of the war. Half of Americans now believe the war in Iraq will turn out to be another Vietnam, while just a third think that the U.S. will accomplish its goals there.
A mostly insiders-only debate about whether Iraq is in a state of civil war broke out into the open last week when two major news organizations announced that they would henceforth refer to the conflict as a civil war. According to polling in September by the Pew Research Center, much of the public had already reached that conclusion.
The Democrats' big win on Nov. 7 has gotten a highly favorable response from the public. In fact, initial reactions to the Democratic victory are as positive as they were to the GOP's electoral sweep of Congress a dozen years ago.
In the aftermath of the 2006 election, the shifting allegiance of some important voter groups has gotten relatively little attention. One of the biggest stories is about young people. Another is what really happened to "The God Gap." And a third is about the one-fifth of voters who aren't white.
A sweeping election tends to invite sweeping conclusions -- and the Democrats' takeover of both houses of Congress this November provides a tempting array of opportunities for exaggeration or misinterpretation. With that in mind, let's look at the major lessons to be gleaned from the exit polls and opinion polls about how America voted this November.
The key to the strong Democratic showing yesterday was the support their candidates drew from moderate and independent voters, an analysis of the exit polls shows. With more than nine-in-ten Republicans and Democrats casting ballots for representatives of their parties, just as they did two years ago, the Democrats' 57%-39% advantage among independents proved crucial.
The vast divide between voters who intend to vote Democratic and Republican on November 7 extends well beyond matters of opinion. These voters also see the world quite differently.