Obama 56, Republicans 30

obama-thumbs-upA NYT/CBS poll finds that President Obama’s approval remains strong but support for his handling of key policy issues is dipping. The Republicans are not, however, gaining much ground.

At 56 percent, his approval rating is down from earlier in the year but still reasonably strong at this point compared with recent presidents.

More Americans are starting to credit his stimulus package with having helped to revive the economy. And Mr. Obama retains a decided advantage with the American public over Republicans on prominent issues, starting with health care.

The poll found that an intense campaign by Mr. Obama to rally support behind his health care plan — including an address to Congress, a run of television interviews and rallies across the country — appears to have done little to allay concerns. Majorities of respondents said that they were confused about the health care argument and that Mr. Obama had not done a good job in explaining what he was trying to accomplish. […] But the poll suggests that Mr. Obama is in a decidedly more commanding position than Republicans on this issue as Congressional negotiations move into final stages. Most Americans trust Mr. Obama more than Republicans to make the right decisions on the issue; 76 percent said Republicans had not even laid out a clear health care plan. And by a lopsided margin, respondents said that Mr. Obama and not Republicans had made an effort to cross party lines and strike a deal that has the support of both parties. Two-thirds of respondents said they wanted Congress to come up with a bill supported by both sides.

At the same time, there has been a slip in confidence in Mr. Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan. There is tepid support for maintaining troop strength there, much less increasing it, as his top commander in Afghanistan prepares to submit a request for additional forces. A majority of Americans do not want troops there for more than two years.


The percentage of people who approve of the way he has dealt with Afghanistan has dropped to 44 percent from 56 percent in April. The percentage of Americans who approve of his handling of the economy, at 50 percent, has dropped from 61 percent since April. In April, Mr. Obama had a 43-point advantage over Republicans in terms of who would make the right decisions on the economy; that has dropped to a 26-point advantage. Americans think the economy is on the mend, and there has been a 15-point increase, to 36 percent, in the percentage of Americans who said Mr. Obama’s stimulus package has improved the economy.

Congressional Republicans have an overall favorable rating of 30 percent, within the margin of error of where it has been all year (32, 29, and 28 in the previous surveys) in this poll. Congressional Democrats at at 47 percent which, again, is within the margin of error of where it has been all year (48, 50, and 47 in the previous surveys). So, the decline in Obama’s approval numbers (which are quite consistent with other recent presidents at this point in their first term) isn’t redounding to the benefit of the opposition party.

Republicans are making modest gains on issue areas but are still leagues behind the president. Again, though, that’s pretty typical: A president has to be doing a lousy job, indeed, to fall behind Congress in these things. Congress tends to be viewed with an esteem on par with used car salesmen.

Interestingly, those of us who think Obama is overexposed, making too many public appearances, are in a decided minority (35 percent) with 58 percent saying he’s making “the right number.” Only 4 percent think he’s making too few. (Interestingly, the Obama overexposed and Obama fatigue memes have been around since last summer’s campaign.)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Where did you get those poll numbers? From David Axelrod?

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I just found out where those poll numbers came from NYT/CBS. Isn’t CBS the network which broadcast documents related to former President Bush which, while purporting to be authentic, were in fact forgeries. Good source. The New York Times publishes CIA information. Neither of these bastions of new gathering have done much reporting on the likes of Van Jones, the avowed communist who had a post in the Obama admin. or any of the other radicals he Hussein surrounds himself with. These fairly balanced news organizations failed to notice the National Mall filled with people on 9/12. Must have been content as if that many folks had showed up there to protest something Bush had been doing, it would have had color photos and large headlines above the fold, front page. James, does OTB now mean Obamas the Best?

  3. JKB says:

    Congress tends to be viewed with an esteem on par with used car salesmen.

    You must have been sold a real lemon to try to drag used car salesmen down to the level of Congress.

    As an aside, it always struck me as odd that we use the ceremonious introduction “The Honorable…” for government positions and individuals that we least associate with that attribute.

  4. yetanotherjohn says:

    Just a point, the CBS poll seems to be a bit of an outlier. If you look at the 6 current polls on RCP, you have +23, +9, +3, +10, +15, +11. Guess which one is the CBS poll (and no, it isn’t the +3).

    The top line numbers are approve 56, 51, 51, 51, 54, 52, disapprove 33, 42, 48, 41, 39, 41. So the big difference seems to be how hard they push for an answer vs ‘I don’t know’. Then there is the sample size, voter screen (all adults, registered voters or likely voters) and the wording of the questions.

    Congress as a whole has a -37.2% job approval.

    If you look at The issue numbers, Obama is falling on the economy and the war. For the Republicans, this is where they want to be. In October of 2010 and 2012 are when the republicans want to be seeing Obama with sharply lower approval numbers and a tightening of the congressional numbers. But given the congressional approval numbers, running as an outsider is likely to be the best campaign. And by their position in the minority, the GOP is more likely to pick up seats based on that tact.

    I expect next year we will see GOP campaigns talking about the democrats holding all the elected levers of power in DC and see what a mess they have made. But the GOP would be foolish to be running that now, more than a year before the mid-term elections.

  5. steve says:

    At what point will Republicans feel pressed to offer alternatives rather than just attack? Reform candidates running against corruption can get away without and affirmative program, but I am not sure they can regain the majority with their current strategy.


  6. andrew says:

    If you’re going to cite a poll you should always say what the party ID breakdown is so people know if it’s a good poll or not.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    Of course if a poll doesn’t give the results that some people want, the natural response of some people must be to try to trash the poll…how many heads will explode if the Republicans don’t pick up a substantial number of seats next year…

  8. G.A.Phillips says:

    I thought it was 57?