WASHINGTON (CNN) — Saying "we will respond to the threat of climate change," President Barack Obama used his second inaugural address to put the divisive issue back on the front burner. But according to a new national survey, Americans are divided over whether global warming is a man made phenomenon.
The president also used his speech to highlight the controversial issue of illegal immigration, and a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday also indicates that a bare majority of the public says the main focus of the federal government should be on developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, rather than deporting them.
The president warned in his Monday address that failure to respond to climate change "would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms."
According to the poll, which was conducted last week, 49% agree with the White House that global warming is a proven fact and is due to emissions from cars, power plants and factories. That's twice as high as the number who say that global warming has not been proven, as well as the 24% who say that it is a proven fact but is not due to manmade sources. But the 49% figure is down seven points from 2007.
There's an expected partisan divide on the question, with two-thirds of Democrats saying global warming is man made. That number drops to 48% among independent voters and is at 28% among Republicans.
The president tried and failed in his first term to get a climate change bill through Congress. The president also came up empty during his first four years in the White House in trying to pass comprehensive illegal immigration reform though Congress.
But Obama has put the issue on his to-do list this year, and in his inaugural address he said "our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country."
By a 53%-43% margin, people questioned in the poll say that main focus of the federal government should be on developing a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, rather than deporting them.
That's a switch from 2011, when by a 55%-42% margin, Americans said that deporting undocumented residents and stopping more of them from coming into the country should be the main focus of U.S policy on illegal immigration.
As expected, the poll indicates a partisan divide on the issue, as well as a generational divide, with younger people saying allowing undocumented immigrants to become legal should be the top priority, and a slight plurality of those 50 and older saying the emphasis should be on deportation and border security.
One of the president's biggest domestic accomplishments in his first term was passing a sweeping health care bill through Congress in 2010. In his inauguration address, Obama acknowledged that there is still much work ahead on this issue, saying "we must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care."
According to the poll, 51% favor all or most of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the official name of what many people refer to as "Obamacare," with 44% opposed to all or most of the provisions in the law.
"That's a switch from 2011, when a CNN poll indicated that a majority opposed all or most of the provisions in the health care bill," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Minutes after his inauguration speech, the president signed documents making official his nominations for some top Cabinet posts, including former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. The Nebraska Republican's nomination has been met with reservations, and even outright opposition, by some senators of both parties, who point to past positions he has taken on Israel, Iran and the war in Iraq.
According to the poll, 48% think the Senate should confirm Hagel.
"That's twice as high as the number who oppose his confirmation, but with three in ten uncertain of how they feel about the issue, the White House might breathe a little easier if support for Hagel were just over 50% rather than just under that mark," adds Holland.
The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International on Jan. 14-15, with 814 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
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By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Political Editor
Photo by: Alison Harding