As President Obama gets ready to deliver his State of the Union address (which, thankfully, will not conflict with the season premier of Lost, which would have been a deal-breaker for me, and not just for watching the speech but for supporting the president at all), I thought I'd give my own little state of the president.
Let's start with the polls in this post and then get to specific issues and opinions in the next post.
Americans like Pres. Obama. You may disagree with his policies, but you can't disagree with the polls that show his popularity remains fairly high. Take a look at his favorability ratings here. Remember to scroll down and look through all the polls. After the mean-spirited contention of the health care debate and the attacks on the president from the right, I was expecting some dismal numbers. It turns out, however, that he is sitting around +15 across the board, which is a big number.
Favorability measures how much we like Pres. Obama, which is a lot, but job approval might be a little more substantive. Yet even here we see that the president is holding his own after a difficult first year in office. Take a look at some polls here and here and the Gallup daily tracking here. He has a stable number since around last August or September fluctuating between +3 and +10. Again, this was a brutal year to be a politician, and president in particular, and he came out with the support of the majority of Americans.
Now for the more sobering polls. When it breaks down to specific issues there are some major areas of concern. See the polls here. On domestic issues Pres. Obama typically gets poor marks. On the economy he's about -10, on healthcare he is about -15, on taxes he's about even, on jobs he's about -10. Those aren't good, but I will say a couple things about them. The economy has, by all indicators, hit its nadir and is on the rise. This year should see solid growth, so I expect improved numbers on the economy, taxes, and jobs. If the economy continues to dawdle along, though, those numbers could get even worse.
As for health care, many polls are showing (example here) that more people disapprove of the bill for not going far enough than for going too far. So it is not the case that a strong majority disapproves of the direction of health insurance reform, a strong majority actually wants the reform. So I expect that once the bill is passed and the hysteria has died down these numbers will improve some because the large portion of the president's base which is showing dissatisfaction will come back around. That is the nature of bases.
On the international front, the president is getting much better marks from the American people. On foreign affairs he's around +5 (and with such efficient response to the Haiti earthquake, government aid is already on the ground there, that could go up), on Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism he is anywhere from even to about +8 or so.
So a strong majority of Americans have a favorable opinion of the president and a solid majority approve of the job he is doing. This after one of the most contentious partisan years America has endured in quite some time.
Liberals, I sense, are starting to feel defeated, but this is qualified good news I think. We gave away a public option, Copenhagen essentially failed, and Democrats are facing losses in the midterm elections. But it has only been one year of a four-year first term for the president and progress is being made and a majority of America still supports our president. Once the health insurance bill is passed and the government moves on to focusing on the economy, jobs, and energy reform things should start to look better, but there is no question that right now Democrats are hurting, and liberals are hurting even more.
This coming year, though, may be crucial, which is where we'll pick up next week.