A plurality of the public (43%) views Barack Obama’s upcoming State of the Union as about as important as past years’ addresses.
As the president travels through Europe this week, issues arising from the global economic crisis and other world problems on his agenda seem likely to resonate with key criticisms of America's leadership carried over from the Bush years.
Latinos, who heavily supported Obama in the November election, rate such issues as the economy, health care and education as the more important issues facing the country. Hispanics were more likely to be first time voters than the general public.
What a difference eight years can make -- or not. As shown in a series of tables, some things have changed a great deal since George W. Bush was elected president in 2000, but other things, most notably certain American beliefs and attitudes, have remained remarkably constant.
President-elect Obama has indicated that he will focus on international cooperation in addressing global problems, but he will have to navigate a world that has grown highly critical of the United States.
Just 11% say Bush will be remembered as an outstanding or above average president -- by far the lowest positive end-of-term rating for any of the past four presidents. Yet Bush's impact on public opinion over the past eight years is seen in ways that go well beyond his personal unpopularity.
Scholar Vali Nasr argues that the 2003 invasion of Iraq has fundamentally shifted the region's balance of power and that the most important conflicts of the Middle East now revolve around the Shia/Sunni sectarian divide.
A new Pew Research survey finds a decline in the share of Americans who want churches and other houses of worship to be involved in political matters. Most of the drop in the past four years has come among political conservatives.
Republicans and Democrats agree the economy should be a top priority for the president and Congress, but they differ more than ever on the importance of other domestic issues -- such as global warming and health insurance for the uninsured.
A year before the 2008 presidential election, most major national opinion trends decidedly favor the Democrats and discontent with the state of the nation is markedly greater than it was four years ago. Also, Republicans have become less likely to say that their party is doing a good job standing up for its traditional positions.