As another presidential election year approaches, the political and economic landscape has changed in a number of ways since four years ago. The public’s mood was not very good, but still a lot better than it is today.
The Tea Party has emerged as a political force on domestic issues, but Republican supporters of the movement have a distinct approach to national security and the U.S. role in the world. Tea Party Republicans favor an assertive foreign policy, are strong supporters of Israel and take a hard line against illegal immigration.
Fifty years after the first American manned space flight, nearly six-in-ten say it is essential that the U.S. continue to be a world leader in space exploration and a majority say it has been a good investment for the country.
Despite the struggling economy and broad dissatisfaction with national conditions, the public has a positive view of the United States' global standing. But more think that the U.S. is one of the greatest countries in the world than say it stands above all other countries.
As President Obama begins to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan, most Americans continue to say that government support for troops returning from war is falling short.
Political attitudes have become more doctrinaire at both ends of the ideological spectrum. Yet at the same time, the growing center of the political spectrum is increasingly diverse. As an in-depth guide to the political landscape, the 2011 Political Typology sorts Americans into cohesive groups based on their values, political beliefs and party affiliation.
Americans see no contradiction in supporting both stepped-up border security and a way for people already in the U.S. illegally to gain citizenship. Most oppose plans to change the Constitution to bar the children of illegal immigrants from becoming citizens. The public, however, also supports Arizona's controversial immigration law.
Americans like the idea of their government promoting democracy in other nations. But democracy promotion has historically lagged far behind other objectives among the public's long-term foreign policy goals.
Americans overwhelmingly cite the economy and jobs as the most important issues facing the president and new Congress. On health care reform, roughly as many would like to see legislation expanded as have it repealed.