Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

October 16, 2009 11:58 PM

President Obama

In major surveys from mid-September through the 10th of October, President Obama's job approval rating has ranged from 50-56%, and his disapproval rating has ranged from 34-42%. [Gallup, CBS/NYT, AP, Pew, Fox, NBC/WSJ]

Obama overall job approval
February 60/26% 62/15% 68/25%
April 61/30% 66/24% 69/26%
June 56/34% 63/26% 65/31%
July 53/40% -- 58/37%
August 51/40% -- 57/40%
September 51/41% 56/33% 54/43%

In some ways, the job approval rating number is a relatively sensitive measurement. Consider the following from Gallup surveys:

October 3-5 50% (lowest found by Gallup to date)
October 9-11 56% - 36%

Approval from Democrats was constant at 84%. However, job approval from Independents jumped from 46% to 55%. Among Republicans it jumped from 12% to 20%. What happened that might account for the change? Obama was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Obama is tied for 5th/6th/7th of 9 when his overall job approval rating is matched up with other modern Presidents' ratings at the same point (October) in the first terms after they were elected. [Gallup surveys]

Approve Disapprove
GW Bush (II) 89 8
Kennedy  77 12
G Bush (I) 68 20
Eisenhower 65 19
Nixon 56 29
Reagan 56 35
Obama 56 36
Carter 55 29
Clinton 47 44

On his handling of the economy, the NBC/WSJ and the CBS/NYT surveys in mid-September gave him a 50% approval rating, with disapproval being 40% in the one and 42% in the other.

As to his handling of foreign policy, the NBC/WSJ survey showed him with a 50% approval rating and a 36% disapproval rating. On specific foreign policy issues, the CBS/NYT survey showed him with a 54% approval rating on his handling of Iraq, but only a 44% approval rating on Afghanistan. Disapproval of his handling of Iraq was at 29% and Afghanistan was 35%. [mid-September for both surveys].

Here is how Obama is rated on his handling of the Federal budget deficit.

April 53/43% [WP/ABC]
June 48/48% [WP/ABC]
July 43/49% [WP/ABC]
August 41/53% [WP/ABC]
September 39/55% [WP/ABC]

[Reaction to Obama's handling of healthcare is in the next section of the Watch.]

The public continues to have positive feelings toward Obama, although the halcyon days of January and February are over. Positive feelings have dropped from 66% to 56%, while negative feelings have grown from 14% to 33%.

Positive Negative
September 2009 56% 33%
July 2009  55% 34%
April 2009 64% 23%
February 2009 68% 19%
January 2009 66% 14%

While his overall job approval rating has declined, as well as the positive feelings that people have toward him, in the array of his specific "characteristics and qualities" he is still doing very well.

Willingness to make hard decisions 72%
Strong and decisive leader 66% [was 72%]
Understands problems Americans face in their daily lives 64% [was 73%]
Get things done 64%
Manage government effectively 55% [was 66%]
Chosen good advisers and cabinet officers 52%
Shares your values 52%

Further strengthening the President's hand is that the public still trusts the President more than Republicans in Congress to handle the economy (48%-37%); healthcare (48%-36%); and the Federal budget deficit 50%-36%). [WP/ABC 9/09]

In April 54% said the President was doing a better job than they expected, while 18% held a contrary view – a 36-point spread. In September 42% said he was doing a better job, while 31% thought he was doing worse than expected – an 11-point spread. [WP/ABC]

A substantial number of people (60%) still believe that Obama has made a "sincere effort" to work with the Republicans in Congress. That number has been on a steady decline since it was recorded at 80% before his inauguration. The number who say he has not made a sincere effort has grown from 19% to 38%. [Gallup]

With the exception of the Judicial Branch, the public has the most trust in itself when compared to various elements of government or politics. 73% express much "trust and confidence" in themselves as a group. The rankings are

Judicial branch 76%
Themselves 73%
Executive branch 61%
Folks in political life 49%
Congress 45%
[Gallup 9/09]

Arguably, this gives the President some advantage in his dealings with the Congress to the extent he is willing to exercise that card.

The President is facing a difficult set of choices as he contemplates the country's future policy toward Afghanistan. The public seems to be shifting in its views. In the 4th week of September Americans opposed sending more troops to Afghanistan by 50% - 41%. But by the end of the first week in October there had been a slight shift and sending more troops was favored by 48% - 45%.

The reason that 80% of respondents say is the most important reason for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan is to "weaken terrorists’ ability to stage attacks on the United States." 55% believe that progress is being made in that regard.

In June 50% of the Afghans approved of U.S. leadership, while 42% disapproved. [Gallup 9/09]

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