Opinions about a pair of contentious social issues, gun control and gay marriage, have changed substantially since previous presidential campaigns. On gun control, Americans have become more conservative; on gay marriage, they have become more liberal.
Americans are closely divided over whether religiously-affiliated institutions should be given an exemption if they object to a proposed federal rule requiring employers to cover birth control as part of their health care benefits.
In the last four national elections, generation has mattered more in American elections than it has in decades. This continues to be true as voters look ahead toward the 2012 general election. In a contest between President Obama and Mitt Romney, there is a 20-point gap in support for Obama between Millennials and the over-65 Silent generation.
Americans' are less discontent with the federal government but no more ready for political compromise. Views of Congress remain heavily negative, while Obama's ratings stay positive. On social issues, the public is, for the first time, evenly split on gay marriage, while support for legal abortion, legalized marijuana -- but not gun control -- have all risen.
Religious beliefs continue to be influential in shaping some Americans' views about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Far fewer cite religion as a top influence on issues such as immigration, the environment and poverty.
While most Americans oppose government funding of abortion, concern about abortion funding plays only a small role in driving opposition to the health care reform legislation. If anything, opposition to reform has declined, with currently 42% in favor and 39% opposed to the health care proposals in Congress.
Public attitudes on two contentious national issues -- gun control and abortion -- have moved in a more conservative direction over the past year. In both cases, the changes have largely been driven by shifts in attitudes among men.
As the '08 elections approach, what are the views of Republicans, Democrats and the general public on "social values" issues? And how have they changed over time?
Even as divisive policy debates continue, public acceptance of homosexual marriage, adoption and military has increased.