Poll Finds Broad Support for President-Elect Obama

January 16, 2009 at 3:50 am Leave a comment

poll-obama-782.jpgBarack Obama enters the White House with public expectations of his success far higher than for any president in a generation, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

On the eve of his Jan. 20 inauguration, the poll found that 65 percent of those surveyed believe Obama will be an “above average” president or better, including 28 percent who think he will be “outstanding.”
According to previous pre-inauguration polls, just 47 percent believed George W. Bush would be an “above average” or “outstanding” president when he entered his first term, 56 percent thought Bill Clinton would be “above average” or better and 38 percent thought George H.W. Bush would be. The earlier pre-inaugural numbers all came from the Gallup Poll, except for Clinton’s, which came from the ABC News/Washington Post poll.
With the U.S. facing the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression, the poll found broad optimism that Obama could help turn things around. Seventy-one percent of those polled said the economy will likely improve during the first year of his presidency; 65 percent said unemployment will go down; 72 percent said the stock market would be on the rise; and 63 percent said their personal economic situation would improve.

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“He cannot not succeed. He has to succeed because the world really depends on him right now,” said Richard Kern, 51, who works in a home remodeling business in Bernalillo, N.M. “We’re all hanging in by the treads of our shoes, waiting for the economy to break. We need good news.”
Respondents also gave the president-elect high marks for his leadership skills and empathy, particularly for the concerns of the middle class.
Even Ronald Reagan, who won a landslide victory over President Jimmy Carter in 1980 during another period of economic uncertainty, was viewed more skeptically than Obama before his inauguration. At the time, 51 percent said Reagan would be a good or great president, according to the Gallup Poll.
The AP-GfK poll found widespread disapproval of Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush.
Sixty-one percent believe Bush will go down in history as a below average or poor president, including 31 percent of Republicans. Just 32 percent of Republicans say he will be remembered as above average.
Indeed, when asked why she believed Obama was likely to succeed, Lauri Raleigh, 48, of Hanover, Pa., replied, “Because he’s not Bush.”
Raleigh, a teacher and mother of three, said Obama “brings a different set of values, a different viewpoint to Washington, to the White House in particular, that we haven’t been there in the last eight years. His openness to other ideas, his willingness to take advice from other people is something that I think has been lacking in the presidency.”
The poll found solid support for Obama’s economic recovery plan, which he is crafting with congressional leaders and which is now projected to cost $825 billion. Fifty-five percent said they supported the plan, and 58 percent said they believed it would bring significant improvements to the economy.
Respondents did express concerns about the federal deficit, which is already projected to top $1 trillion even before the stimulus plan is enacted.
Still, 48 percent said it was important to stimulate the economy even if meant an increase in the deficit while 44 percent said it was more important to cut spending and trim the deficit.
Dawn Timmons, 39, a homemaker from Wallace, S.C., said she opposed Obama’s stimulus plan.
“We can’t afford to lose money, spending left and right,” she said, noting that she found Obama “a little cocky.”
She added, “We already got a lot of debt. The debt is just going to get worse if he just keeps spending money.”
The poll found 69 percent approve of the way Obama has handled his transition to the presidency. That’s down slightly from 73 percent last month, before Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on federal charges of trying to barter Obama’s open Senate seat for personal gain.
Still, the poll found approval of Obama’s transition remained strong and remarkably broad despite the Blagojevich controversy and other, smaller snags. Fully 85 percent of Democrats approve of the transition, along with 63 percent of independents and 48 percent of Republicans.
Darlene Clark, a 51-year old homemaker from Farmington, Mich., voted for Republican John McCain in November but has little but praise for Obama now.
“He’s very charismatic, got good leadership qualities,” Clark said. “Obviously, he’s a really smart person and I think he will try his best to do what he thinks is best for the country.”
The AP-GfK poll was conducted Jan. 9-14 and involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,001 randomly chosen adults. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Source: AP
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