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Obama Approval Confounds Pundits

Even Washington's pundit class is finding it has no choice but to acknowledge that, despite everything, President Obama is as popular as ever. Consider the latest data.

CBS News reports: "As President Obama concludes his well-publicized trip to Europe, Americans are more positive about the respect accorded to a U.S. president than they have been in years, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

"Sixty-seven percent say world leaders respect Mr. Obama, while 18 percent say they do not respect the president. That's a sharp contrast to the response when this question was asked about Mr. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, in July 2006: Just 30 percent then said the president is respected by the leaders of other countries.

"Mr. Obama's overall approval rating, meanwhile, has hit a new high of 66 percent, up from 64 percent last month. His disapproval rating stands at 24 percent. Nearly all Democrats and most independents approve of the way the president is handling his job, while only 31 percent of Republicans approve."

Meanwhile, Alexander Mooney writes for CNN: "As he wraps up a week-long trip abroad that drew positive headlines across Europe, President Barack Obama's approval rating remains high at home, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday.

"Obama draws a 66 percent approval rating in the latest CNN poll, a number that has remained statistically unchanged over the last month."

In the New York Times, Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee-Brenan marvel: "These sometimes turbulent weeks — marked by new initiatives by Mr. Obama, attacks by Republicans and more than a few missteps by the White House — do not appear to have hurt the president. Americans said they approved of Mr. Obama's handling of the economy, foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan; fully two-thirds said they approved of his overall job performance.

"By contrast, just 31 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest in the 25 years the question has been asked in New York Times/CBS News polls.

"It is not unusual for new presidents to enjoy a period of public support. Still, the durability of Mr. Obama's support contrasts with that of some of his predecessors at the same point in their terms. It is also striking at a time when anxiety has gripped households across the country and Mr. Obama has alternately sought to rally Americans' spirits and warn against economic collapse as he seeks Congressional support for his programs."

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz writes: "If you read the press or watch talk TV, you've learned that Obama is trying to do too much, has ticked off his own party, mishandled AIG, thinks he can run GM, is pushing socialism, is taking over the whole economy, and by the way, Afghanistan is his Vietnam.

"Well, much of the public doesn't seem to agree."

Kurtz chalks this up to Obama's sheer "political talent" and "the power of political levitation."

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard thinks Obama has the public bamboozled: "President Obama is the master of misdirection. His skill in using this tactic is a key to his success as a candidate and to his popularity as president. He is a great salesman, marketing his product--the liberal agenda, plus a few add-ons--in a manner that disguises what he's really up to."

What's your explanation for Obama's continued popularity? Comments are open!

By Dan Froomkin  |  April 7, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
 
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Next: Obama Sums Things Up

Comments

Well ... We know that the pundits cheered us into Iraq; they cheered us into the recession and other economic troubles. Moreover, the Republicans found nothing wrong with Bush (that includes Barnes/Limbough/Hannity/Kristol/etc by the way).

On the other hand, Obama is pretty much doing what he said he would do. Guess what: we voted for him to do that, hoping that it will work. By the way, along with everyone else, we are not sure what will work, but we KNOW that the Republicans' plan failed.

So why are the pundits surprised?

Posted by: AMviennaVA | April 7, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

The press has no credibility, especially cable tv and radio punditry. While Obama continues to be viewed as a credible and straight talking.

The press' problem is they're in the Washington echo chamber, much like Bush was in a feedback loop and disconnected in the White House echo chamber. They'll latch on to any perceived or potential conflict... anything to talk about.

The press & pundits need to get out of Washington. They need fresh faces... people from around the country, not Washington insiders.

Interesting. Newspapers around the country are failing when, I think, they would provide the best editorial value for our times.

Posted by: gmckinney | April 7, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

But wait?? I thought the press had a liberal bias?? I thought the MSM was hopelessly in the tank for Obama?? I'm confused? If that were true then the pundits wouldn't be surprised by the public's support for Obama.

Unless, the liberal MSM is a myth! And all the ranting and hyperventilating about how polarizing Obama is, how he is the socialist devil, how he hates and criticizes America abroad, is just so much blather from the (gasp!) right-wing corporate controlled press!!!

Shocking!

Posted by: thebobbob | April 7, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm afraid that I must repeat what others have said but which the pundits continue to ignore in their supposed wisdom that they must feel they gain from their "inside access".

The pundits are in an echo chamber of their own making and really do NOT comprehend the minute-to-minute reality of Americans scrambling to make mortgage payments, feed their kids and stay employed, or find a new job, if they're so unfortunate as to be unemployed. Those people aren't interested in what the talking heads have to say. They're interested in what actions are being taken to stabilize the economy, improve America's standing and address basic needs for shelter, health care and education.

Obama is doing what he said he would do. He has my support. Do I have concerns about some specific actions and their outcomes? Certainly but on the whole, given the scope of issues and challenges facing this new administration and the lack of cooperation from Republicans who are more interested in tit-for-tat politics than in what's best for our country, I am well-satisfied with Obama and his administration's efforts thus far.

Posted by: vbdietz | April 7, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't Fred Barnes the only pundit out of 27 to predict a McCain victory? This clown still wants us to believe his theories? LMAO!

Posted by: TheDiplomat | April 7, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Obama doesn't pretend that everything he is doing is working out as planned. He's admitted mistakes and told us why he's altering course. We haven't had that for 8 years. It gives him credibility.

Posted by: org1 | April 7, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Pundits never used to have their own pundits that could track and critiqued their track record in real time.

Now, however, we do (the blogosphere).

It would seem then that at some point in the very near future, big news organizations will have to face up to an obvious choice.

Either hire pundits/commentators (e.g. Rachel Maddow, John Stewart, Keith Olberman) who, at the very least, observe and hew to opinions based on well-researched facts - or - risk having those pundits and their opinions as well as the organization's opinion banished into the same social relevance as vaudeville and burlesque.

Posted by: RootieKazootie | April 7, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Some of the above posts are hilarious. What evidence is there that "the media" has been tough on Obama? This article focuses on pundits. Right-wing pundits are not "the media".

The NYT & WaPo representatives ARE "the media". And they're gushing about Obama's popularity.

But in response to Froomkin's question, Obama isn't that popular. Bush had a 60% approval rating at this point in his presidency, too. Same with Clinton, Bush 41 & Reagan. Carter was above 70%!

A 66% approval rating isn't that impressive. Not unless you're in the tank for Obama...

Posted by: Steve-Orr | April 7, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

A 66% approval rating in a depression while his country is involved in two seemingly intractable wars isn't just high, it's incredibly high.

And the reasons for it are pretty simple.

He's out there visibly trying to fix the problems that have weighed down the United States for the past 8 years- and perhaps most importantly, he's explaining what he's doing in complete sentences treating his audience as if they were adults.

Refreshing?

You bet.

Posted by: GavinM | April 7, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

What's most indicative of the press' blinders was the two "giftgates." In the first instance, the British gave Obama a better and fancier gift than he gave them. He gave a set of DVDs (Some of which were coded to work only in the US) and they gave him a gift made from wood from a slave ship. Obviously, his people didn't talk to their people, there wasn't coordination, wasn't proper advance work between the two groups.
Just as obviously, this was a fixable problem and Obama's a very smart fellow. Reporters with any common sense would NOT have jumped to the unwarranted conclusion that giving the Queen an Ipod was a faux pas. Intelligent reporters would have interviewed people on the British side BEFORE concluding that Obama had stepped in it again.
The reason reporters messed this up was that they expected the President to behave as though he were a character on a TV show, as though he'd keep making the same mistakes over and over. By acting like a smart human being and by learning from mistakes, Obama left them flummoxed.

Posted by: rlg3526 | April 7, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

The "public" is comprised of individual people. We individually tune in to hyperventilating media outlets for a while and get caught up in the drama of the day, but then our lives pull us out again, and we have a spell - blissfully unaware of the manufactured crises. At any given moment, only a small percentage of us are in the grips of the media cycle.

On the other hand, the people who work in the media live and breathe it constantly. For these people the world becomes an endless string of dramatic events. There should be no surprise, then, that the media has a different perspective than the broader public.

Posted by: ath28 | April 7, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

'Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz writes: "If you read the press or watch talk TV, you've learned that Obama is trying to do too much, has ticked off his own party, mishandled AIG, thinks he can run GM, is pushing socialism, is taking over the whole economy, and by the way, Afghanistan is his Vietnam.

"Well, much of the public doesn't seem to agree."

Kurtz chalks this up to Obama's sheer "political talent" and "the power of political levitation."'

Either that or you guys were just wrong, Howie!

Posted by: thrh | April 7, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

He's reasonable, thoughtful, intelligent and has some measure of charm. He says what he means and means what he says. He inspires confidence by explaining his thought process and, in doing so, proves that he does, indeed, think.

Who, aside from the farthest right of the right, would throw shoes at that?

Julie, Dem in Arkansas

Posted by: jgau4 | April 7, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I think that a big part of Obama's popularity with the public has to do with the contrast with the recent past. Having a President who can complete a logically coherent sentence and who doesn't engage in constant "bring it on" arrogance is like a breath of fresh air. I think people are willing to give him the benefit of doubt as much for who he isn't as for who he is.

Posted by: Honus | April 7, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Fred Barnes is way more wrong than anyone else is right. Years ago, when Brill's Content kept a running score on pundits, Fred was below the celler, with an accuracy of less than 15%, as I remember. So whatever Fred says, take the opposite bet, and you're the smartest pundit in the world, more than 80% accurate.

Posted by: dickdata | April 7, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

As the President has said, good policy makes good politics. Even though everything is not right, people feel comforted in knowing that a worthy leader is at the helm and it's wonderful to see a statesman on the world stage to represent the country.

Posted by: loved1 | April 7, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Kurtz chalks this up to Obama's sheer "political talent" and "the power of political levitation."


Actually, I would say its because the media is a bunch of paste eating morons.

Posted by: miket000 | April 7, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

I think two things:

The pundits *always* seem confused when the public doesn't agree with them. You would think they would have learned from the Clinton Impeachment debacle that America doesn't follow their lead simply because the inside-the-beltway crowd thinks they should. Americans think for themselves. We're kind of stubborn that way (often to a fault, it's true).

Which leads to my second point: I think the same things that are pleasing the country are POing the pundits. Obama is keeping his campaign promises--Pundits: "How naive can you get?"; Public: "Finally, a politician doing what he promised!" Obama is trying to deal with a huge mess that was handed to him--Pundits: "He's doing too much!"; Public: "Thank God somebody's trying to take care of business!" Obama is trying to be both honest about the difficulties we're facing, but still optimistic--Pundits: "He's being naive (or too depressing)"; Public: "Finally, something that sounds like a reasonable approximation of the truth." Etc. I could go on forever, honestly.

The short form is: the inside-the-beltway crowd concentrates too much on the "game" of politics. Most people don't give a rip; they care about *their own lives*. And therein lies the disconnect.

Posted by: dougom | April 7, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

This president makes an intelligent effort. This kind of dedication hasn't been seen since Clinton. After listening to Fox's Hannity last night its hard to believe how the country survives. Nothing he said had any truth to it, and there was no one that agreed or didn't totally condemn or blame the current situation on Obama. Other ingrates and morons on the broadcast use basic common sense and moral as a foundation to manipulate the simple minded into their greedy political parties position. This is a totally partisan broadcast and anyone that makes up their mind from this broadcast is incapable of makeing up their own mind therefore lacking basic common sense. This show is nothing but your regular slander and deceitful blabber. These men are the worst kind of criminals. This is where the dividing of American starts.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | April 7, 2009 8:51 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama has been successful for two reasons, First, Bush was such an embarrassment it is hard not to look good in comparison, and second, regardless of how you feel, Obama has been working his tail off. What a contrast to the last guy! I think all Americans recognize when someone is really trying!

Posted by: catsmom | April 7, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

The American public demonstrates that we deserve to have a president we can respect and admire because we are intelligent enough ti recognize him. President Obama's popularity also reveals the ineptitude of our professional pundits, or so-called opinion-shapers.

Posted by: bguetti | April 8, 2009 6:52 AM | Report abuse

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz states that much of the public doesn't seem to agree with the position that the pundits are making about President Obama's popularity.
*********
That is because the American people are thinking for themselves and not letting political pundits tell them what they should be thinking. The American public is looking at various TV stations, listening to various radio stations and reading all types of newspapers to formulating their OWN minds about how this President is doing. The pundits are so surprised by they word is not the law of the land anymore.

Posted by: TopperGem | April 8, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

The pundits - left, right, center - are all struggling to remain or become relevant. This applies equally to Howard Kurtz, Keith Olbermann, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and pretty much everyone else across the continuum: they are all entertainers, by definition, because they're making their primary living by working for entertainment corporations. (Face it: there's more money to be made in entertainment than in news.)

Since none of the pundits have an edge over the others for "inside connections", they've resorted to formulating their own unique spin on the hard facts, and then it's just a matter of who can shout the loudest (Fox and MSNBC), the longest (pick 'em), be the most outrageous (Limbaugh), wear the shortest skirts (Fox retired the trophy), or dumb themselves down to do the bottom fishing for the remaining viewers (photo finish between CNN and pretty much every local station in the country). It's a struggle for their survival, so they're trying every trick they can think of to keep their jobs - just like everyone else.

But the talking heads are relevant only if someone is paying attention, and the public, more and more, are forming their own opinions, based on what they see, hear, read, and live. The pundits are left to just shout at each other.

Posted by: folkster | April 8, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

@kimkimmini1: "After listening to Fox's Hannity last night its hard to believe how the country survives."

We survive by not watching FOX. :)

Seriously, I used to watch some of that garbage under the "keep your enemy closer" theory but I just couldn't bring myself to do it anymore. Mentally dissecting right wing nutjob rants doesn't have the appeal it once had, probably because they've reached a level of absurdity that no longer shocks the conscience like it used to. I am glad Stewart and Colbert have done such a fantastic job documenting Glenn Beck's descent into madness.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | April 8, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I think most Americans are just happy to have a President that sounds like a President and not a high school dropout.

Obama presents his talking points in a logical and thoughtful manner without the ranting and mindless babbling the "Pundits" all love.

Posted by: rtreff | April 8, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Most pundits were born confounded. Others like Barnes appear to have been born with congenital lobotomy. Then there are those who are congenital liars, and those who deal cool aid to the ignorant. Pundits contribute to the inanity of our current political life, and should be jailed for contirbuting to the delinquency of civilized, informed political dialogue and thought. Let their punishment consist of taking away their Blackberries, disabling their twitter accounts, and forcing them to leave the beltway for a few weeks to be out amongst real Americans who actually have real lives and real problems. I have a nagging suspicion most pundits would be unconfounded in a big hurry, at long last.

Posted by: OIFVet | April 9, 2009 2:35 AM | Report abuse

Obama is simply the best president we've ever had. He is smart, suave, wise, and cool.

Posted by: GeorgHerbet | April 9, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

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