Public Loses Faith in Obama’s Economic Abilities
The public's confidence in President Barack Obama's ability to handle the economy is eroding amid concerns about higher federal spending and expanding government power, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds - a development that could complicate his efforts to push a health care plan through Congress in the next few weeks.
In the survey, taken Friday through Sunday, Americans by 49 percent to 47 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy, and by 44 percent-50 percent disapprove of his handling of health care.
His overall approval rating was 55 percent, the lowest of his young presidency. That puts Obama 10th among the 12 post-World War II presidents at this point in their tenures. When he took office, he ranked seventh.
"His ratings have certainly come back to earth in a very short time," Republican pollster Whit Ayres said.
Most of those surveyed continue to see Obama as a strong and decisive leader, as someone who understands the problems they face in their daily lives and someone who can manage the government effectively.
There is a widening disconnect between his personal popularity and support for the policies he advocates, though:
- 59 percent say his proposals call for too much government spending.
- 52 percent say they call for too much expansion of government power.
- Expectations about when the economy will recover are souring. In February, the mean or average prediction for a turnaround was 4.1 years; now it's 5.5 years.
- There's limited faith in his economic stimulus package, especially when asked about its likely impact on their own finances. A third predict it will make things better for their families in the long term; a third say it will make things worse.
For Obama, "the trouble is it might make the policies more popular by being associated with him," said presidential historian H.W. Brands of the University of Texas at Austin. "But it's almost equally possible that it will make him less popular by linking him with those policies."
Still, Americans by a 3-1 ratio are more likely to give Obama's predecessor George W. Bush "a great deal" of the responsibility for the country's economic problems than Obama.
The poll of 1,006 adults, taken by landline and cell phone, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.