It’s true: Americans really are eternal optimists. How many times have you heard a State of the Union speech that actually drills down into specifics (other than those personal anecdotes of which I wrote earlier)? I never have. Yet, Americans still bother to say — when asked, at least — that they would like details from the president, if he would only give them:
By more than 2 to 1 — 58% vs. 27% — Americans would prefer that President Barack Obama use his State of the Union address mainly to make specific proposals for Congress to pass this year, rather than to outline his broad vision for the direction of the country. Republicans, independents, and Democrats share this view. …
Americans’ directive for which topics Obama should emphasize Tuesday night is unambiguous. When asked to say which of five possible areas is most important for the president to focus on, two-thirds choose “jobs and the economy.” The federal budget deficit ranks a distant second, selected by 17%, followed by 11% choosing healthcare. Relatively few Americans, 4% each, believe it is most important for Obama to talk about national security or moral values issues.
The overall ranking of issues largely corresponds with Americans’ relative concern about the scope of problems in each area. Recent Gallup polling found 83% of Americans dissatisfied with the state of the economy, while two-thirds were dissatisfied with healthcare and majorities were satisfied with the nation’s defense and security from terrorism. (Satisfaction with the federal budget deficit was not measured in that poll.) The one issue that doesn’t square is moral values. It is hardly mentioned as one of the key issues for Obama to focus on in his speech, even though a large majority of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the nation’s moral and ethical climate.
For this — an actually substantive, specific SOTU — we’ll have to just keep dreaming. What I really can’t wait to see is how many people actually tune into the president’s speech. After last night’s content-free GOP debate, I’d guess even hardcore politicos on the right are a little weary of political-themed programming that aims to make Obama look as peachy keen as possible while simultaneously diminishing the image of GOP candidates.