A majority of Americans say they feel hopeful about President George W. Bush's second term, but those hopes are clouded by doubts about when the bloodshed in Iraq will end.
People say Iraq should be the president's highest priority, according to an Associated Press poll that found that those surveyed are not optimistic a stable government will take hold there.
After winning re-election, Bush is preparing to pursue an ambitious agenda that includes efforts to change the Social Security pension plan, federal tax laws and medical malpractice awards.
Ahead of Bush's inauguration on Thursday, 60 percent of those asked said they were hopeful, compared to 39 percent who said they were not. Asked if they were worried, 47 percent said yes and 53 percent said no. Most said they were neither angry nor excited about Bush's final four years in office.
Iraq was cited most often as the president's highest priority, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs. Some 53 percent of those questioned said it is unlikely that Iraq will have a stable government.
"Iraq remains the kind of thing that could completely take over the term, if the situation gets a lot worse," said Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "It's a good idea for the president to push new domestic proposals. He has to find a way to have the whole second term be about more than just Iraq."
More than 1,350 US troops have died in Iraq. Deadly attacks by insurgents are on the rise as the Jan. 30 elections near.
Bush is presiding over a nation much changed from the one when he took office in January 2001. The Sept. 11 attacks have changed everything, from the shape of government and the health of the economy to the conduct of US foreign policy.
Half of those questioned in the AP poll said relations with other countries are worse than they were four years ago, while four in 10 said they are the same. One-quarter of Republicans said relations with other countries are worse.
Bush's domestic wish list -- with its focus on allowing private accounts in Social Security for younger Americans, limiting lawsuit awards and overhauling the tax laws -- could gain momentum from the increased Republican majorities in the House and Senate. But Republican lawmakers are showing a willingness to challenge Bush's proposals.
Close behind Iraq in public concerns for Bush's second term is the economy, which moved past terrorism as a top concern in AP polls in the past two months. Social Security was named as a top issue by only 9 percent, taxes by 2 percent.
People were relatively optimistic about their own personal finances in the next year. Four in 10 said they expect their own situation to improve and a similar number said they expect it would stay the same the same, according to the poll of 1,000 adults that was taken Jan. 10-12. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.