As has been the case since October, roughly half the country approves of President Obama's job. The nation is also divided on Afghanistan and health care. One rare point of agreement, though, is that the economy remains poor.
Polling has found significant support for both tougher enforcement and the so-called "path to citizenship," but several factors suggest that a new push for reform could be a difficult one.
Americans are famous both for being weight conscious, and at the same time unable to come to terms successfully with their bloated waistlines. The same paradox has applied to how the public looks at budget deficits for a very long time.
Centrism has emerged as a dominant factor in public opinion as the Obama administration begins. Republicans and Democrats are even more divided than in the past, while the growing political middle is steadfastly mixed in its beliefs about government, the free market and other values that underlie views on contemporary issues and policies. Both political parties have lost adherents since the election and an increasing number of Americans identify as independents.
Despite the economic recession, support for free trade agreements is up by nine percentage points -- from 35% to 44% -- putting positive opinions of trade back in line with long-term trends. People in low-income families and Democrats are much more supportive of trade now than they were a year ago.
Obama continues to inspire confidence on economic matters, as majorities believe his policies will both improve economic conditions (66%) and reduce the budget deficit over time (54%). There has been no improvement in the GOP's image.
While members of all faiths see the economy as the top priority for 2009, they are not always in agreement on what issues the government should tackle. The divide is especially large on reducing crime and moral decline in America.
While it is not unusual for Americans to prioritize domestic over foreign policy, a new survey finds strengthening the economy and improving the job situation are higher priorities today than they have been at any point over the past decade, and the recent upward trend has been steep.
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.