For some time now the question on many minds inside the Beltway has been when will President Obama’s honeymoon period will be over? It is normal for new Presidents to enjoy an initial period of public adulation as expectations run high for positive change, but inevitably even the most popular of commander-in-chiefs see their public approval numbers take a hit. For the current occupant of the White House the question of when the public would begin to grow restless is of greater interest because of his tremendous popularity and personal appeal. His presidential campaign opponent, Sen. John McCain, described Mr. Obama as a “celebrity” and that characterization is not far fetched when the latest poll numbers are examined.
The most recent New York Times/CBS poll indicates that the public is still very much with President Obama and that he has actually gained credibility in a few areas although the public is still reserved over his handling of the financial crisis. Overall, 66 percent of poll respondents approved of Mr. Obama’s performance and 24 percent disapproved; a two percentage point gained from polling in late March. Importantly, the public is not blaming the Obama administration for the nation’s economic troubles. When asked, “Who do you think is mostly to blame for the current state of the nation’s economy?” thirty-three percent of respondents said the Bush administration and 21 percent put the blame on Wall Street and financial institutions. Only 2 percent of respondents blamed the Obama administration.
President Obama also appears to be winning over the public in creating positive sentiments about the nation’s economic future. Whereas in January’s poll 79 percent of respondents believed the country was headed in the wrong direction and only 15 percent believed the nation was on the right course, Mr. Obama has gained some ground. In the latest poll 53 percent of respondents still believe the country is headed in the wrong direction but now 39 percent of those polled are of the opinion the nation is moving in a positive direction. The President continues to enjoy high approval ratings (59 percent) for his handling of foreign policy and though he slipped five percentage points, from 61 to 56, his handling of the economy is still receiving strong support. On the question of his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Obama still has solid support, 59 and 58 percent respectively.
On the other hand Congress does not fare well in the poll. When asked their opinion of the way Congress is handling its job, 64 percent of respondents disapproved and only 26 percent approved. However, when the partisan comparison is made, Democrats are faring much better than their Republican counterparts. On both the question of who is more likely to make the right decisions about the nation’s economy and safety, President Obama is given higher marks than Republicans in Congress (63% v. 20% and 61% v. 27%). In general, 58 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of Congressional Republicans while 34 percent felt likewise about Democrats. Conversely, only 31 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of Republicans in Congress as compared to 56 percent that viewed Democrats favorably.
It appears as though the public also has a bigger appetite for government regulation of private industry these days. Forty seven percent of respondents approved of the Obama administration’s handling of problems in the auto industry and 71 percent said government should increase regulation of banks and financial institutions. It appears the public is not against providing aid to troubled companies so long as conditions are attached. Respondents were split in half when asked two questions to gauge the public’s appetite for providing troubled companies assistance. When asked if companies receiving aid should accept guidance from the federal government, 64 percent said companies should accept oversight as a condition of receiving aid. Forty nine percent of respondents said it was “very important” for the federal government to provide aid to the auto industry to save jobs. In addition, 41 percent of those polled said the same conditions should apply to the auto industry and financial institutions that receive government aid.
The public is also expressing concern over the economy, with 38 percent of respondents citing jobs/economy as the most important economic problem facing the country. Following jobs, come health care and energy as the top economic concerns. It is also clear that there is anxiety over the state of the economy. When asked what worries them most, 22 percent of respondents indicated losing a job as their primary concern. In addition, 49 percent of respondents said that their household income was “just enough” to pay their bills and meet their other financial obligations. Some 44 percent said they were “very concerned” that either they or someone else in their household might be out of work and looking for a job in the next twelve months. In addition, 49 percent of those polled indicated they were “very concerned” that they might not have enough money for retirement. In a telling sign that many Americans are concerned about the future, of parents who were respondents, 25 percent said they believed that when their children are their age, their child’s standard of living will be “somewhat worse” while 24 percent said “somewhat better.”
The full poll results can be found at: documents.nytimes.com/new-york-times-cbs-news-poll-on-the-approval-ratings-of-president-barack-obama#p=1