Changing Opinions About President Obama

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – February 17, 2011 – A year ago, after President Obama’s first year in office, Americans seemed hopeful as majorities agreed the President was trying to bring about needed change (60%), had fresh ideas (56%), and made other countries feel better about the United States (57%). Yet, he also was widely criticized at that time for not living up to his promises (60%), not accomplishing much (61%), and for spending too much money (61%).

    Now a year later, mid-way through his term, the same questions show that Americans feel slightly less positive about the President overall as fewer Americans say he is open and honest (53% versus 54% previously), has fresh ideas (52% versus 56%), and has made other countries feel better about the U.S. (50% versus 57%). On the other hand, fewer people today also criticize the President for lack of action (53% versus 61%).

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,566 adults surveyed online between January 17 and 24, 2011 byHarris Interactive.

    Although majorities say that President Obama is spending too much and creating too much debt (56%), he hasn’t done much for us yet (53%), and that he has not lived up to his campaign promises (56%), greater numbers agreed with each of these items last January (between 60% and 61% for each), suggesting there may be a slight decline in negative views of the job President Obama is doing. As an interesting juxtaposition, majorities say that the President spends too much time talking and there isn’t enough action (56%), yet over half of Americans also agree that the President does a good job of explaining issues to people like them (51%).

    Other findings of this poll include:

    • Americans are split regarding the timing of changes-45% agree the President is not changing things fast enough, yet a third say he is changing things too fast (33%);
    • People seem to feel the President is a good person and a positive representative for the country-over half agree he is open, honest and trustworthy (53%) and half say he has made other countries feel better about the United States (50%) (less than two in five disagree with this (37%) and one in ten (13%) are not sure).

    Partisan Differences

    It is not surprising that Democrats agree with more of the positive statements about the President, and Republicans agree with more of the negative ones, yet Obama interestingly does not receive completely contrary ratings overall. For example:

    • While more than five in six Democrats (86%) and over half of Independents (54%) agree that the President is trying to bring about much needed change, three in ten Republicans also agree (29%);
    • Similarly, over one quarter of Republicans (26%) agree with majorities of Democrats and Independents (87% and 55%) who say that Obama is trying to put the country back on track; and
    • Interestingly, Democrats and Independents seem more condemning of the speed of enacted change, as almost half (46% and 48%, respectively) say that Obama is not changing things fast enough, compared to two in five Republicans who agree (40%).

    Educational Differences

    There are interesting educational differences when exploring opinions of the President. Generally speaking, those with more education have more positive views of President Obama, and those with less education are less approving. For example:

    • Almost three quarters of those with a post-graduate education say the President is open, honest and trustworthy (72%), whereas less than half of those who have not attended any college agree (47%);
    • Six in ten of those who have not attended college criticize President Obama for spending too much time talking and not enough action (60%). Over half of those with some college or a college degree say the same (55% and 54%), yet only two in five with a post-graduate education do (40%).
    So What?

    These modest drops in both positive and negative opinions of the President may reflect the somewhat complex year that we’ve had. In the time since the questions were first asked a host of changes have been made and legislation passed. On the one hand this may have disappointed some who had different (or higher) hopes. On the other hand, the enacted change may have shown some of the President’s critics that he has, in fact, been able to move his agenda along. Hindsight can be a valuable perspective and time will tell how President Obama, and this interesting time, is remembered

     

    TABLE 1

    POSITIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

    Base: All adults

    AGREE (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    DISAGREE (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    Not Sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    He is trying to put the country back on track.

    59

    35

    24

    35

    12

    23

    6

    He is trying to bring about much needed change.

    58

    34

    25

    34

    14

    20

    7

    He has made other countries feel better about the United States.

    50

    24

    26

    37

    14

    23

    13

    He provides a fresh outlook with new ideas.

    52

    24

    28

    41

    17

    23

    7

    He is open, honest and trustworthy.

    53

    30

    23

    39

    15

    25

    8

    He does a good job of explaining issues to people like me.

    51

    24

    27

    41

    18

    23

    7

    He is working for the people’s best interests and doing the right thing.

    51

    29

    22

    41

    15

    26

    7

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 2

    NEGATIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

    Base: All adults

    AGREE

    (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    DISAGREE

    (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    Not Sure

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    He is spending too much and creating too much debt.

    56

    38

    18

    35

    20

    15

    9

    He hasn’t done much for us yet.

    53

    32

    21

    41

    23

    18

    6

    He has not lived up to his campaign promises.

    56

    31

    25

    36

    23

    13

    8

    He spends too much time talking and there isn’t enough action.

    56

    31

    25

    37

    21

    16

    8

    He is not changing things fast enough.

    45

    20

    25

    46

    26

    19

    10

    He doesn’t care about people like me.

    41

    27

    14

    51

    19

    32

    8

    He is changing things too fast.

    33

    19

    14

    58

    31

    28

    8

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 3

    POSITIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA – BY PARTY

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

    Percentage saying Strongly/Somewhat agree

    Base: All adults

    Jan.

    2010

    Jan.

    2011

    Political Party

    Republican

    Democrat

    Independent

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    He is trying to put the country back on track.

    61

    59

    26

    87

    55

    He is trying to bring about much needed change.

    60

    58

    29

    86

    54

    He has made other countries feel better about the United States.

    57

    50

    22

    77

    46

    He provides a fresh outlook with new ideas.

    56

    52

    23

    83

    45

    He is open, honest and trustworthy.

    54

    53

    20

    85

    48

    He does a good job of explaining issues to people like me.

    NA

    51

    22

    80

    48

    He is working for the people’s best interests and doing the right thing.

    51

    51

    17

    85

    44

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; NA indicates not asked in that year

     

    TABLE 4

    NEGATIVE STATEMENTS ABOUT PRESIDENT OBAMA – BY PARTY

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

    Percentage saying Strongly/Somewhat agree

    Base: All adults

    Jan.

    2010

    Jan.

    2011

    Political Party

    Republican

    Democrat

    Independent

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    He is spending too much and creating too much debt.

    61

    56

    85

    34

    60

    He hasn’t done much for us yet.

    61

    53

    82

    28

    58

    He has not lived up to his campaign promises.

    60

    56

    75

    38

    61

    He spends too much time talking and there isn’t enough action.

    57

    56

    78

    33

    67

    He is not changing things fast enough.

    43

    45

    41

    46

    48

    He doesn’t care about people like me.

    NA

    41

    68

    19

    45

    He is changing things too fast.

    38

    33

    58

    16

    36

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; NA indicates not asked in that year


    TABLE 5

    AGREE WITH POSITIVE STATEMENTS – BY EDUCATION

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

    Percentage saying Strongly/Somewhat agree

    Base: All adults

    Jan.

    2010

    Jan.

    2011

    Education

    High School or Less

    Some College

    College

    Grad

    Post Grad

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    He is trying to put the country back on track.

    61

    59

    54

    58

    62

    76

    He is trying to bring about much needed change.

    60

    58

    55

    54

    64

    72

    He has made other countries feel better about the United States.

    57

    50

    46

    49

    54

    64

    He provides a fresh outlook with new ideas.

    56

    52

    47

    53

    56

    65

    He is open, honest and trustworthy.

    54

    53

    47

    51

    59

    72

    He does a good job of explaining issues to people like me.

    NA

    51

    49

    48

    56

    63

    He is working for the people’s best interests and doing the right thing.

    51

    51

    46

    50

    57

    68

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; NA indicates not asked in that year

     

    TABLE 6

    AGREE WITH NEGATIVE STATEMENTS – BY EDUCATION

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statements about President Obama?

    Percentage saying Strongly/Somewhat agree

    Base: All adults

    Jan.

    2010

    Jan.

    2011

    Education

    High School or Less

    Some College

    College Grad

    Post Grad

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    He hasn’t done much for us yet.

    61

    53

    58

    52

    49

    38

    He is spending too much and creating too much debt.

    61

    56

    60

    54

    57

    44

    He has not lived up to his campaign promises.

    60

    56

    56

    55

    58

    48

    He spends too much time talking and there isn’t enough action.

    57

    56

    60

    55

    54

    40

    He is not changing things fast enough.

    43

    45

    48

    43

    45

    36

    He is changing things too fast.

    38

    33

    34

    35

    34

    25

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; NA indicates not asked in that year

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 17 to 24, 2011 among 2,566 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J39369

    Q1233

    The Harris Poll® #22, February 17, 2011

    By Samantha Braverman, Senior Project Researcher, Harris Interactive