With the public giving subpar approval ratings to President Obama and continuing to express negative views of Congress and the political parties, it goes its own way on many of the remaining issues before the lame-duck Congress.
Since 9/11, there is little evidence that close calls in the U.S. or terrorist attacks overseas have led to a fundamental change in the public's worries about terrorism. Also, Americans are divided over whether the U.S. is winning or losing its campaign against terrorism.
Large majorities of Democrats and independents favor allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the armed forces. Republicans are divided, but among conservative Republicans, far more oppose than favor allowing gays to serve openly.
The federal government continues to get positive marks for efforts to reduce the threat of
terrorism although the partisan gap has reversed since the Bush years. But many Americans say luck is a big reason why the U.S. has not suffered a major attack at home since 2001.
As has been the case for most of the past two years, about nine-in-ten rate national economic conditions as only fair or poor. As a political consequence, the Democratic Party has lost ground to the Republican Party on a wide range of issues, including the job situation.
In the U.S. and around the globe, the spread of nuclear weapons is seen as a major threat, but not overwhelmingly so. Those concerned, however, look to the U.S. for leadership.
Strengthening the nation's economy and improving the job situation continue to top nation's priority list. However, shifts have occurred on the priority give to two issues: energy (down) and the budget deficit (up). Extremely large partisan gaps exist on the importance of health care and global warming.
The government's ratings for reducing the threat of terrorism have slipped, and Americans are increasingly more concerned with safety than civil liberties. Domestically, few see an upside to health care reform, and the national mood remains grim. Yet President Obama's political standing is little affected, and his personal image remains positive.