At a time when the White House has portrayed Mr. Bush's 3.5-million-vote victory as a mandate, the poll found that Americans are at best ambivalent about Mr. Bush's plans to reshape Social Security, rewrite the tax code, cut taxes and appoint conservative judges to the bench. There is continuing disapproval of Mr. Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, with a plurality now saying it was a mistake to invade in the first place.
While Democrats, not surprisingly, were the staunchest opponents of many elements of Mr. Bush's second-term agenda, the concerns extended across party lines in some cases. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents - including 51 percent of Republicans - said it was more important to reduce deficits than to cut taxes, a central element of Mr. Bush's economic agenda.
The poll reflected the electoral feat of the Bush campaign this year. He won despite the fact that Americans disapproved of his handling of the economy, foreign affairs and the war in Iraq. There has been a slight increase in the number of Americans who believe the nation should never have gone into Iraq. A majority of Americans continue to believe the country is going in the wrong direction, traditionally a warning sign for an incumbent.
Even as two-thirds of respondents said they expected Mr. Bush to appoint judges who would vote to outlaw abortion, a majority continue to say they want the practice to remain either legal as it is now, which was Mr. Kerry's position, or to be legal but under stricter limits.
Americans said they opposed changing the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, which Mr. Bush campaigned on in the final weeks of his campaign. A majority continue to support allowing either same-sex marriages or legally recognized domestic partnerships for gay people.
The public appears ambivalent about the two proposals that Mr. Bush has identified as his major domestic initiatives for a second term: rewriting the Social Security system and reshaping the tax code, including more tax cuts.
On the tax code, administration officials are discussing plans that would, among other things, lower the tax rate on higher-income Americans and eliminate some deductions. In the poll, more than 6 in 10 of the respondents said people with higher incomes should pay a greater proportion of their income in taxes; 3 in 10 said all income groups should pay the same proportion.
About one-third of the respondents said the tax cuts passed in Mr. Bush's first term had been good for the economy; but nearly a fifth said they had done more harm, and just under half said the tax cuts had made little difference.
On Social Security, 45 percent said a proposal to permit people to invest their Social Security withholding money in private accounts was a bad idea; 49 percent said it was a good idea. The poll also found little confidence among Americans that Mr. Bush would assure the future solvency of the program: 51 percent said that Mr. Bush was unlikely to "make sure Social Security benefits are there for people like me."
In this poll, when allowed freely to name the issue that was most important in their vote, 6 percent chose moral values, although smaller numbers named issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. On a separate question in which voters were given a choice of nine issues, 5 percent chose abortion, 4 percent chose stem cell research and 2 percent chose same-sex marriage.
The top issue was the economy and jobs, which was cited by 29 percent of respondents.
By 48 percent to 40 percent, respondents said they believed four more years of a Bush presidency would divide the nation more than it would unite it.
Finally, in one bit of presumably good news for a party that is looking for it, Americans now have a better opinion of the Democratic Party than of the Republican Party: 54 percent said they had a favorable view of Democrats, compared with 39 percent with an unfavorable view. By contrast, 49 percent have a favorable view of Republicans, compared with 46 percent holding an unfavorable one.