President Obama’s Ratings on the Rise Both Before and Since the State of the Union Address

President Obama takes questions from the audience during a town hall forum in Arnold, MO on to commemorate his 100th day in office. (Apr. 29, 2009)

NEW YORK , N.Y. – January 27, 2015 – Around this time last week, an apparent ratings bump for President Obama was making all sorts of news. CBS News, the Washington Post, The Fiscal Times and a variety of other outlets all reported upswings for the President going into the State of the Union address, and results from two new Harris Poll surveys #NAME? since the speech, not just for the President but for the direction of the country itself.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,232 U.S. adults surveyed online between January 14 and 20, 2015 (prior to the State of the Union) and 2,057 adults surveyed online between January 21 and 23, 2015 (the three days following the address).

In the days leading up to the address, positive ratings for the overall job President Barack Obama was doing were already on the rise, standing at 39% (up six points over the previous month). Coming out of the address, the President’s positive ratings stood at 42% – the highest level the overall approval rating has reached since December 2012, just after his re-election.

  • While one might assume that this increase comes solely from Democrats, post-SOTU ratings showed a bump from both sides of the aisle: 7% of Republicans gave the President positive ratings before the address, while and admittedly-still-low 10% gave him positive ratings after; Democrats’ positive ratings, meanwhile, grew from 69% to 74%, respectively. Independents’ ratings were more stable, with 33% giving positive ratings before the address, 34% after.
  • Just over half of those who watched the address gave the President positive ratings (53%), compared to just over a third of those who didn’t watch (35%).

Positive ratings for President Obama’s handling of the economy follow a similar path; 39% of Americans gave him positive ratings on this aspect of his job performance before the address – a 5-point improvement over the previous month – while positive ratings grew a further 3 points to 42% post-address. It’s been a long time since the President has enjoyed such positive response to his handling of the economy; the last time this rating was in the 40’s was in 2009.

  • Findings again subvert the assumption some might have that this bump is coming only from the President’s own party. In fact, Democrats’ response on this question changed very little, from 70% positive ratings before the address to 71% after. The source of the improvement came more squarely, in this case, from Republicans (from 9% positive ratings before the address to 12% after) and Independents (from 32% to 35%, respectively).

Direction of the country

It’s not just the President who saw attitudinal upswings both before and after the address; though the majority of Americans (62%) indicated before the address that things in the country have gotten off on the wrong track, 38% indicated that things are going in the right direction – the highest level seen for this attitude in over a year and a half. The positive sentiment grew further still after the SOTU, with 44% seeing things in the country as going in the right direction.

  • Americans of all political leanings showed pre-to-post SOTU improvement in this positive attitude, be they Republicans (from 16% before the address to 19% after), Democrats (from 61% to 68%, respectively) or Independents (from 32% to 39%, respectively).
  • The majority of SOTU viewers (57%) indicated believing that things in the country are going in the right direction, while just over a third of those who didn’t watch (35%) indicated the same.

Even Congress gets (marginally) more love

Positive ratings for the overall job Congress is doing was also on the rise prior to the SOTU, with the 9% giving them positive ratings representing a 2-point improvement over the previous month. Positive ratings grew further – albeit marginally – after the address, to an admittedly-still-low 10%.

  • Looking at political affiliations, positive ratings among Republicans grew by three points (from 7% before the address to 10% after), while Independents’ positive ratings grew marginally (from 7% to 8%) and Democrats’ positive ratings showed an equally marginal drop (from 14% to 13%).

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TABLE 1a

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING – TREND

How would you rate the overall job President Barack Obama is doing?

Base: All adults

 

TREND

Positive

Negative

%

%

2015

Jan (post-SOTU)

42

58

 

Jan (pre-SOTU)

39

61

2014

December

33

67

 

November

35

65

October

34

66

September

30

70

August

32

68

July

34

66

June

38

62

May

38

62

April

33

67

March

35

65

February

35

65

January

32

68

2013

December

34

66

 

November

32

68

October

35

65

September

34

66

July

39

61

June

41

59

March

38

62

2012

December

45

55

September

41

59

April

41

59

March

40

60

January

36

64

2011

December

36

64

 

November

34

66

October

33

67

September

32

68

July

38

62

May

46

54

April

38

62

March

39

61

Feb.

42

58

Jan.

44

56

2010

Dec.

36

64

 

Nov.

38

62

Oct.

37

63

Sept.

38

62

Aug.

40

60

June

39

61

May

42

58

March

41

59

Jan.

40

60

2009

Dec.

41

59

 

Nov.

43

57

Oct.

45

55

Sept.

49

51

Aug.

51

49

June

54

46

May

59

41

April

58

42

March

55

45

Positive = excellent or pretty good. Negative = only fair or poor.

 

TABLE 1b

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING – BY PARTY, PRE/POST SOTU & WATCHED SOTU

How would you rate the overall job President Barack Obama is doing?

Base: All adults

 

Pre-SOTU

Post-SOTU

Total

Political Party

Total

Political Party

Watched SOTU

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

39

7

69

33

42

10

74

34

53

35

Excellent

9

2

18

5

9

 

20

4

15

4

Pretty good

30

5

51

28

34

10

54

30

38

31

NEGATIVE

61

93

31

67

58

90

26

66

47

65

Only fair

25

22

23

30

25

21

19

34

20

28

Poor

36

71

8

37

33

69

7

32

27

37

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

indicates a response rate of <0.5%

— Indicates this response was not selected


TABLE 2a

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING ON THE ECONOMY – TREND

Now, turning to something different, how would you rate the overall job that President Barack Obama is doing on the economy?

Base: All adults

2009

2010

March

April

May

June

Aug

Sept

Nov

Dec

Jan

Mar

Apr

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE (NET)

47

49

46

43

39

40

34

36

31

32

33

36

32

32

29

27

31

30

Excellent

13

13

10

3

9

7

6

6

5

5

6

6

5

6

5

5

5

5

Pretty good

34

36

36

34

31

33

27

30

25

27

27

30

27

26

24

22

26

25

NEGATIVE (NET)

53

51

54

57

61

60

66

64

69

68

67

64

68

68

71

73

69

70

Only fair

30

27

30

27

25

27

30

30

31

30

31

29

32

29

31

33

30

34

Poor

23

24

24

30

36

33

37

34

39

37

36

34

37

39

40

39

39

36

2011

2012

2013

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

June

July

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Feb

Mar

Apr

June

July

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE (NET)

33

33

33

32

27

26

21

23

22

25

25

32

32

36

33

39

35

33

29

30

30

29

Excellent

7

9

5

7

5

3

2

3

3

4

2

3

5

4

6

6

5

5

4

5

6

4

Pretty good

26

24

28

26

22

23

18

20

20

22

22

29

27

32

27

32

31

28

28

25

24

25

NEGATIVE (NET)

67

62

67

68

73

74

79

77

78

75

75

68

68

64

67

61

65

67

71

70

70

71

Only fair

30

22

29

28

30

33

33

36

32

34

34

30

29

26

26

26

29

29

31

28

29

30

Poor

37

39

38

40

43

41

46

41

46

41

41

38

39

38

41

35

36

38

40

42

41

41

2014

2015

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan (pre-SOTU)

Jan (Post-SOTU)

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE (NET)

28

31

31

32

35

32

30

30

29

33

35

34

39

42

Excellent

5

4

5

5

5

7

7

6

6

5

8

9

10

10

Pretty good

23

27

26

27

29

25

23

25

24

27

26

25

29

32

NEGATIVE (NET)

72

69

69

68

65

68

70

70

71

67

65

66

61

58

Only fair

30

29

27

29

26

28

27

31

31

29

29

30

26

27

Poor

42

40

42

39

39

40

43

39

40

38

36

36

34

31

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding; In February 2012 Not at all sure was offered as a response choice and 4% responded in that way.


TABLE 2b

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING ON THE ECONOMY – By Political Party and Generation

Now, turning to something different, how would you rate the overall job that President Barack Obama is doing on the economy?

Base: All adults

 

Pre-SOTU

Post-SOTU

Total

Political Party

Total

Political Party

Watched SOTU

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

39

9

70

32

42

12

71

35

53

35

Excellent

10

2

21

6

10

2

21

4

17

5

Pretty good

29

7

50

26

32

10

50

31

36

29

NEGATIVE

61

91

30

68

58

88

29

65

47

65

Only fair

26

26

19

33

27

25

22

35

21

31

Poor

34

65

10

35

31

64

7

30

26

34

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

 

TABLE 3b

CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING – Trend

How would you rate the overall job Congress is doing?

Base: All adults

 

TREND

Positive

Negative

%

%

2015

Jan (post-SOTU)

10

90

 

Jan (Pre-SOTU)

9

91

2014

December

7

93

 

October

8

92

September

7

93

August

8

92

July

9

91

June

10

90

May

7

93

April

7

93

March

8

92

February

8

92

January

6

94

2013

December

5

95

 

November

7

93

October

4

96

September

7

93

July

9

91

June

9

91

March

6

94

2012

December

8

92

April

11

89

March

9

91

January

6

94

2011

December

5

95

 

July

8

92

May

13

87

January

16

84

2010

December

11

89

 

June

14

86

March

10

90

Jan.

16

84

2009

Dec.

17

83

 

Oct.

16

84

June

25

75

March

29

71

2008

October

10

86

 

August

18

77

June

13

83

February

20

76

2007

December

17

79

 

October

20

77

April

27

69

February

33

62

2006

September

24

73

 

May

18

80

February

25

71

January

25

72

Positive = excellent or pretty good. Negative = only fair or poor.

 

TABLE 3a

CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING

How would you rate the overall job Congress is doing?

Base: All adults

 

Pre-SOTU

Post-SOTU

Total

Political Party

Total

Political Party

Watched SOTU

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

9

7

14

7

10

10

13

8

13

9

Excellent

1

 

2

1

1

 

2

1

2

1

Pretty good

8

7

12

6

9

10

10

7

10

8

NEGATIVE

91

93

86

93

90

90

87

92

87

91

Only fair

37

44

34

32

39

44

33

42

36

41

Poor

54

50

53

60

51

46

54

51

52

50

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

indicates a response rate of <0.5%

— Indicates this response was not selected

 

TABLE 4a

RIGHT DIRECTION OR WRONG TRACK – TREND

Generally speaking, would you say things in the country are going in the right direction or have they pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?

Base: All adults

 

TREND

Right Direction

Wrong Track

%

%

2015

Jan (Post-SOTU)

44

56

 

Jan (Pre-SOTU)

38

62

2014

December

30

70

 

November

34

66

October

34

66

September

29

71

August

32

68

July

31

69

June

33

67

May

35

65

April

34

66

March

34

66

February

34

66

January

31

69

2013

December

33

67

 

November

30

70

October

20

80

September

29

71

July

34

66

May

39

61

2012

March

34

66

 

January

27

73

2011

August

16

84

 

May

39

61

2010

December

29

71

 

April

39

61

2009

August

46

54

 

January

19

72

2008

October

11

83

 

February

23

69

2007

December

18

74

 

February

29

62

2006

May

24

69

 

February

32

59

2005

November

27

68

 

January

46

48

2004

September

38

57

 

June

35

59

2003

December

35

57

 

June

44

51

2002

December

36

57

 

June

46

48

2001

December

65

32

 

June

43

52

2000

October

50

41

 

June

40

51

1999

June

37

55

 

March

47

45

1998

December

43

51

 

June

48

44

1997

December

39

56

 

April

36

55

1996

December

38

50

 

June

29

64

1995

December

26

62

 

June

24

65

1994

December

29

63

 

June

28

65

1993

June

21

70

 

March

39

50

1992

June

12

81

 

January

20

75

1991

December

17

75

 

January

58

32

 

TABLE 4b

RIGHT DIRECTION OR WRONG TRACK – By Political Party and Generation

Generally speaking, would you say things in the country are going in the right direction or have they pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track?

Base: All adults

 

Pre-SOTU

Post-SOTU

Total

Political Party

Total

Political Party

Watched SOTU

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Right direction

38

16

61

32

44

19

68

39

57

35

Wrong track

62

84

39

68

56

81

32

61

43

65

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

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between January 14 and 20, 2015 among 2,232 adults (aged 18 and over) and between January 21 and 23, 2015 among 2,057 adults. 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, The Harris Poll 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 Poll 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 our 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 The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #8, January 27, 2015

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll