Published February 19, 2009
While Barack Obama continues to receive marks that would please any president, his ratings are starting to come down to earth a bit.
One month into Obama's term 60 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president, down from 65 percent three weeks ago (27-28 January 2009). Similarly, the portion of people that disapproves has increased to 26 percent, up from 16 percent. Almost all of the change can be attributed to a decrease in approval and an increase in disapproval among Republicans. In fact, among Obama's party faithful, his job approval has gone up from 85 percent in late January to 90 percent today.
Views of Obama as a person have also dipped. Today 68 percent have a favorable opinion of him and 25 percent unfavorable. Last month Obama had his highest favorable rating to date when 76 percent of Americans said they had a positive opinion and 15 percent unfavorable (13-14 Jan 2009). His average favorable rating for the last six months is 59 percent, with the lowest being 56 percent in October 2008.
Here again, most of the change in Obama's favorable rating comes from Republicans and a smaller change among independents.
"These poll results highlight just how quickly the glow of inauguration festivities fades as well as the fluid state of public opinion in this tumultuous time," says Chris Anderson, Opinion Dynamics vice president. "The 9-point decrease in Obama’s personal favorability rating actually masks a larger shift over the last month and that is a massive change of heart among Republicans towards the president personally. In mid-January a majority of Republicans had a favorable opinion of Obama and now a majority views him unfavorably.”
The number of voters confident the Obama administration will be able to make "significant positive change for the country" has dropped 11 percentage points from 75 percent in mid-January. Still, 64 percent are very or somewhat confident in Obama's ability to bring positive change. The entire decline comes from drops in confidence among Republicans and independents.
Sentiments are split on whether the new administration has already brought real change to Washington. So far, 45 percent see real change from the Obama administration and 46 percent say it is more of the "same partisan politics." About one in five Democrats (21 percent) thinks the Obama administration is bringing more of the same partisan politics and about the same number of Republicans thinks Obama has already brought real change (18 percent).
Are Congressional voters feeling buyer's remorse? The poll finds 48 percent think it is good that Obama has a Democratic Congress to increase his power and an equal number — 46 percent — wish there were more Republicans in Congress to provide a check on Obama's power. Moreover, 16 percent of those voting for Obama in the general election wish there were more Republicans in Congress.
And a 42 percent plurality thinks the press is being too easy on the Obama administration — more than twice as many as say the press is being too tough (20 percent). Some 31 percent think he is receiving even-handed treatment in the news.
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from February 17 to February 18. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Overall, 39 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing. A year ago 22 percent approved and 68 percent disapproved (19-20 Feb 2008)
Separately, 46 percent approve of the job Democrats in Congress are doing and 34 percent approve of Republicans in Congress.
Filling the Cabinet
Turning to Obama's cabinet, a 57 percent majority rates the quality of the people he selected as excellent or good, down from 60 percent in mid-January and 65 percent in early December.
Some of Obama's nominees have stepped aside for various reasons, including Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire who accepted and then backed away from serving as Commerce Secretary. In departing Gregg said "on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me."
Earlier the White House had said it wanted to assert more control over the Census Bureau. The poll finds that by 58 percent to 30 percent Americans think it would be inappropriate for the White House to do so.
Presidential Address and Dress Code
Most people say they are very (54 percent) or somewhat (28 percent) likely to watch Obama's formal presidential address on February 24.
In fact, when asked if they would rather have the networks carry their regular prime time entertainment programming or the hour-long presidential address, Americans were three times as likely to say they wanted the networks to carry the speech (74 percent to 20 percent).
If you're the president — you can do what you want, right? But when Obama decided to ditch the suit coat in the Oval Office some people took offense, such as former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card who said there should be a "dress code of respect" in the White House. The public is a little more button-downed about it: 68 percent are okay with a more "relaxed and casual" dress code, while 26 percent think a coat and tie should be required in the Oval Office.