By Dan Froomkin
12:15 PM ET, 03/31/2009
Despite all the grim news and the increasingly critical coverage, President Obama remains hugely popular with the American people.
The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Obama with a 66 percent approval rating, unchanged from a month ago, and a 60 percent approval rating for how he's handling the economy.
Overwhelming majorities of Americans (70 to 80 percent) blame big business, banks, former president George W. Bush and consumers who overextended themselves, in that order, for the financial crisis -- while only a small minority (26 percent) blame Obama.
By a greater than two-to-one margin, the public trusts Obama to do a better job handling the economy than they do Republicans -- although the percent saying "neither" is up significantly over a month ago.
And fully 64 percent of Americans are confident that Obama's economic program will improve the economy. That's down from 72 percent before his inauguration -- which was also before the full scope of the problem was apparent.
Asked if "beneath it all" Obama is "an old-style, tax-and-spend Democrat" or a "new-style Democrat who will be careful with the public's money," respondents chose the latter two to one.
Jon Cohen and Dan Balz write in The Washington Post: "The number of Americans who believe that the nation is headed in the right direction has roughly tripled since Barack Obama's election, and the public overwhelmingly blames the excesses of the financial industry, rather than the new president, for turmoil in the economy, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."
So what's the bad news for Obama? "Despite the increasing optimism about the future, the nation's overall mood remains gloomy, and doubts are rising about some of the administration's prescriptions for the economic woes. Independents are less solidly behind Obama than they have been, fewer Americans now express confidence that his economic programs will work, barely half of the country approves of how the president is dealing with the federal budget deficit, and the political climate is once again highly polarized."
But that's not really so bad. For instance, although Cohen and Balz write that "barely half" approves of how Obama is dealing with the deficit, barely half is still, well, more than half -- and who really thinks the deficit is a big issue right this minute, anyway?
OK, well, just wait then, Cohen and Balz write: "The findings suggest that the public continues to give Obama considerable latitude as he attempts to jump-start the economy, but public patience may be limited. The coming debate over his budget, where he faces both Democratic and Republican resistance to some of his major priorities, should produce a more definitive first-year judgment on his economic program and his presidency."
A new USA Today/Gallup Poll pegs Obama's approval rating at 64 percent.
CNN reports: "More than eight out of 10 Americans think Barack Obama will do a good job representing their country to the world, according to a new national poll published as the U.S. president set off on his first overseas trip since taking office."
And Lois Romano writes in The Washington Post about the poll numbers for Michelle Obama: "Her favorability ratings are at 76 percent, up 28 points since summer. The number of people who view her negatively has plummeted. Her most striking inroads have come among Republicans who viewed her negatively last year, perhaps in part because of comments she made about feeling proud of her country for the first time."