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Fox News Poll: Why voters approve (or disapprove) of President Obama

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May 9, 2014: U.S. President Barack Obama returns from a 3-day visit in California, to the White House in Washington. (Reuters)

President Barack Obama’s job rating stands at 44 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove in the latest Fox News poll. That is the best rating he’s received since last fall. 

Why are voters giving the president the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down?

Click here for the poll results.

The new poll, released Wednesday, encourages people to say in their own words why they approve or disapprove of the president’s performance.

The most popular reasons for approving of Obama’s performance are “he’s doing a good job” (37 percent), health care (17 percent), the economy is improving (11 percent), “he cares about average people” (eight percent) and they agree with him on issues (six percent).

Some answers cited most frequently for disapproving of the job Obama’s doing are nearly identical: 24 percent give the blanket reason “he’s doing a bad job,” while 18 percent say health care and 16 percent cite the economy not improving. Eight percent say they disagree with Obama on issues and six percent say he’s not truthful. Five percent disapprove because of government spending, down from 14 percent the last time the question was asked in May 2010.

One reason Obama’s approval is at its highest level in months is that some voters feel things are getting better. 

The number rating economic conditions positively is twice what it was last fall: 18 percent rate the economy as excellent or good, up from eight percent in October 2013. And the 36 percent saying the economy is in poor condition is the lowest number in more than six years. That’s despite mixed views over whether or not the country is still in a recession (49 percent) or an economic recovery is underway (48 percent).

In addition, 43 percent of voters are at least somewhat satisfied with the way things are going in the country. This is the first time since before the 2012 election that more than four in 10 are satisfied (and fewer than six in 10 are dissatisfied).

Of the issues tested on the poll, Obama receives his best job rating on the economy. Some 46 percent of voters approve of the job he’s doing, while 50 percent disapprove. That’s a marked improvement from his 39-58 percent rating in March. 

Still, the president’s ratings on health care and foreign policy also remain in negative territory. 

On health care, 43 percent approve, while 54 percent disapprove. That’s up from March when it was 40-57 percent. Obama’s job rating on health care matches almost exactly how voters feel about Obamacare: 43 percent favor it, while 53 percent are opposed.

The 43 percent favoring the new health care law is a record high. In addition, by a 47-46 percent margin, slightly more voters say Obamacare will ultimately be a good thing for the country. That’s a reversal from February when more said the law would be a bad thing by 51-42 percent.

Thirty-nine percent approve of Obama on foreign policy, while 49 percent disapprove. 

Specifically on Ukraine, while 25 percent say the United States should be more involved in the situation, far more -- 65 percent -- say the U.S. shouldn’t. That’s up from 53 percent in March. 

Despite agreeing with Obama’s decision to stay out of Ukraine, by a 75-14 percent margin, most voters think Russian President Vladimir Putin “has the upper hand” in the situation. While Democrats (21 percent) are much more likely than independents (9 percent) or Republicans (6 percent) to think Obama has the upper hand, nearly two-thirds agree Putin holds that spot (64 percent). 

Four years ago, in the spring before the 2010 midterm elections, Obama’s job rating was 45 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove (May 18-19, 2010).

Much of what keeps the president’s job rating hovering in the same range is the continued support from key constituencies. 

Consider this: 92 percent of Democrats backed Obama in the 2012 election according to the Fox News exit poll. Today, 77 percent of Democrats approve of the job he’s doing. Some 93 percent of blacks voted for Obama in 2012 and 86 percent approve now. Sixty-seven percent of unmarried women supported him in 2012 and 56 percent approve today.

The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,025 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from May 10, 12-13, 2014. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. 

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