The outcome of the elections, with its GOP resurgence and its influx of candidates backed by the tea party movement, has spurred much commentary and reporting on how and whether the White House and its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill can find any common ground with the Republicans on key issues.
But a pair of polls by Gallup highlights the divide that still exists among Americans in general when it comes to the issues and the political dynamics driving them. And that may well be a big obstacle to the chances for agreement among Democrats and Republicans in Washington after an election in which voters swept out many incumbents.
A Gallup poll conducted Oct. 21-38 asked what the top priorities should be for the new Congress and found that, among all adults, 38 percent favored a new economic stimulus bill to create jobs, 24 percent chose cutting federal spending while 23 percent wanted to see the new health care law repealed. Eight percent placed the most importance on continuing all the tax cuts enacted under the Bush administration. (Those polled were given only those four choices by Gallup).
Gallup notes that "the difficult challenges facing Congress in the post-election period" is highlighted by the fact that none of the four priorities was chosen by a majority of all Americans as their top priority.
Looking beyond the numbers for all Americans, the poll also showed -- unsurprisingly -- deep partisan disagreements.
For Republicans, repealing the health care bill is the top priority among the four, at 36 percent. Only 12 percent of Democrats agree.
The top priority for Democrats by far is a new economic stimulus bill, with 63 percent making that choice, compared to only 18 percent of Republicans.
Cutting federal spending is the second highest priority for Republicans and extending the Bush tax cuts is last among the four choices.
The top priority for independents, selected by 32 percent, is a new economic stimulus bill followed by cutting federal spending (cited by 28 percent). The third in order of priorities is repealing the health care law, at 23 percent.
Gallup also polled Americans just before Election Day on their views about the tea party. Asked whether they thought the movement energized people to get more involved in the process -- whether they agreed with tea party ideas or not -- 73 percent of respondents said it had done so.
Fifty-four percent said the movement had made political parties more responsive to the views of ordinary citizens.
Fifty-five percent said the movement had created deeper political divisions in the country than had previously existed.
About two-thirds of those who say they oppose the tea party disagreed that it had energized more people and about the same number of those who described themselves as neutral expressed the same view.
Eighty-one percent of tea party opponents believe the movement had created greater political divisions in the country. However, only 48 percent of those who said they had a neutral view of the tea party felt that way, not much different than the 44 percent of tea party supporters who thought it had stoked more division.
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