President Obama Kicks Off Final Year in Office on a High (Ratings) Note

LANCASTER, PA - SEPTEMBER 4: Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks during a rally at Buchanan Park September 4, 2008 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Obama is campaigning through Pennsylvania as U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) accepts the Republican nomination for U.S. President tonight. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Barack Obama

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Coming off of the hopeful vision he recently shared in his final State of the Union address, positive ratings for President Obama are at their highest point in years. At 45%, his positive marks are up eight points from last month (37%) and are up marginally from the peak he saw in the wake of last year’s state of the Union (42%). In fact, the last time the President’s ratings stood this strong was in December 2012, in the wake of his re-election.

This puts the President roughly mid-pack when compared to the numbers his two predecessors saw going into their final years in office:

  • On the low end, President George W. Bush’s positive ratings stood at 28% in February 2008 (the earliest numbers available for that year).
  • At the other end of the spectrum, a 57% majority of Americans gave President Bill Clinton positive ratings in January 2000.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,193 U.S. adults surveyed online between January 13 and 18, 2016.

Republicans stand firm in their disapproval of the President, with nine in 10 (90%) giving him negative ratings. Ratings did see month over month shifts among other Americans though, with his positive marks rising 11 points (from 68% to 79%) among Democrats and 10 points (from 28% to 38%) among Independents.

Positive ratings for President Obama’s handling of the economy are also up, from 36% in December to 43% this month (roughly even with the 42% he saw in the wake of last year’s State of the Union). Similar to his general ratings, nine in 10 Republicans (89%) rate him negatively while just over seven in 10 Democrats (72%) rate him positively. Among Independents, 62% rate him negatively while 38% rate him positively.

Putting the President’s 45% into stark relief, 15% of Americans have positive attitudes toward the overall job Congress is doing while 85% rate them negatively; this represents a small increase over last month (12%) and more substantial growth in comparison to a year ago (when it was 10%).

State of the country 

Three in 10 Americans (30%) rate the current state of the country in a positive light, with seven in 10 (70%) giving it negative ratings. Interestingly, Americans who watched President Obama’s State of the Union address are more likely to rate the state of the country positively (37%, vs. 20% among those who didn’t watch), as are those who watched the GOP response (37% vs. 24%).

Looking at Americans by their top two presidential picks for the 2016 race reveals some sharp contrasts in this attitude:

  • Hillary Clinton’s supporters (43%) are the segment most likely to rate the current state of the country positively, followed by those favoring Bernie Sanders (37%) and Jeb Bush (35%).
  • On the other hand, negative attitudes toward the state of the country dominate among the supporters of Ben Carson (94%), Ted Cruz (91%), Donald Trump (89%) and Marco Rubio (88%).

Best vision to address major issues 

When looking at a series of issues facing the country, which of the two major parties do U.S. adults feel has the best vision to address each? That depends on the issue, and there’s little consensus.

  • Americans show a nearly identical likelihood to select the Republican and Democratic parties for their ability to address immigration (29% Rep, 28% Dem; 21% say neither has a good vision of how to address this) and to strengthen the economy (29% Rep, 30% Dem, 18% neither).
  • Results are nearly as close when it comes to addressing The War on Terrorism (28% Rep, 25% Dem, 22% neither) and improving the job market (27% Rep, 29% Dem, 18% neither).
  • Americans are somewhat more likely to select Republicans when asked which party has the best vision to address conflicts in the Middle East (26% Rep, 21% Dem, 24% neither).
  • Democrats, on the other hand, lead their counterparts somewhat on making taxes/tax system fairer (24% Rep, 29% Dem, 22% neither) and more notably on addressing gun violence/firearm safety (23% Rep, 35% Dem, 18% neither), improving access to/quality of education (20% Rep, 33% Dem, 17% neither) and protecting the environment (13% Rep, 37% Dem, 15% neither).

 

 

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**

%

%

2016

January

45

55

2015

December

37

63

 

November

41

59

October

41

59

September

41

59

August

40

60

July

39

61

June

38

62

May

41

59

April

38

62

March

37

63

February

38

62

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 Political Party, Generation, Watched SOTU & GOP Response

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

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Generation

Watched SOTU

Watched GOP Response

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

45

10

79

38

54

46

39

35

52

37

49

43

    Excellent

12

2

21

11

15

13

8

9

17

6

16

9

    Pretty good

33

8

58

27

39

32

30

27

35

31

33

33

NEGATIVE

55

90

21

62

46

54

61

65

48

63

51

57

    Only fair

23

24

15

27

26

23

22

14

21

25

19

26

    Poor

32

66

6

35

20

32

39

51

27

38

33

31

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

* indicates fewer than <0.5% selected this response

 

 


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

2011

March

April

May

June

Aug

Sept

Nov

Dec

Jan

Mar

Apr

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb*

Mar

May

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE (NET)

47

49

46

43

39

40

34

36

31

32

33

36

32

32

29

27

31

30

33

33

33

32

      Excellent

13

13

10

3

9

7

6

6

5

5

6

6

5

6

5

5

5

5

7

9

5

7

      Pretty good

34

36

36

34

31

33

27

30

25

27

27

30

27

26

24

22

26

25

26

24

28

26

NEGATIVE (NET)

53

51

54

57

61

60

66

64

69

68

67

64

68

68

71

73

69

70

67

62

67

68

      Only fair

30

27

30

27

25

27

30

30

31

30

31

29

32

29

31

33

30

34

30

22

29

28

      Poor

23

24

24

30

36

33

37

34

39

37

36

34

37

39

40

39

39

36

37

39

38

40

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

June

July

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Feb

Mar

Apr

June

July

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE (NET)

27

26

21

23

22

25

25

32

32

36

33

39

35

33

29

30

30

29

28

31

31

32

35

32

  Excellent

5

3

2

3

3

4

2

3

5

4

6

6

5

5

4

5

6

4

5

4

5

5

5

7

  Pretty good

22

23

18

20

20

22

22

29

27

32

27

32

31

28

28

25

24

25

23

27

26

27

29

25

NEGATIVE (NET)

73

74

79

77

78

75

75

68

68

64

67

61

65

67

71

70

70

71

72

69

69

68

65

68

   Only fair

30

33

33

36

32

34

34

30

29

26

26

26

29

29

31

28

29

30

30

29

27

29

26

28

   Poor

43

41

46

41

46

41

41

38

39

38

41

35

36

38

40

42

41

41

42

40

42

39

39

40

 

2014

2015

2016

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan (pre-SOTU)

Jan (Post-SOTU)

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE (NET)

30

30

29

33

35

34

39

42

40

38

38

39

36

38

40

39

41

40

36

43

  Excellent

7

6

6

5

8

9

10

10

9

10

10

10

8

6

8

11

12

12

10

10

  Pretty good

23

25

24

27

26

25

29

32

31

28

27

29

28

31

32

29

29

28

26

32

NEGATIVE (NET)

70

70

71

67

65

66

61

58

60

62

62

61

64

62

60

61

59

60

64

57

   Only fair

27

31

31

29

29

30

26

27

28

28

28

25

28

27

24

25

26

24

27

24

   Poor

43

39

40

38

36

36

34

31

32

34

35

35

35

36

36

35

33

36

36

33

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, Generation, Watched SOTU & GOP Response

“How would you rate the overall job that President Barack Obama is doing on the economy?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Generation

Watched SOTU

Watched GOP Response

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

43

11

72

38

50

41

38

35

51

32

48

39

    Excellent

10

1

20

9

12

11

8

9

15

5

14

8

    Pretty good

32

10

52

29

38

30

30

25

36

27

34

31

NEGATIVE

57

89

28

62

50

59

62

65

49

68

52

61

    Only fair

24

24

21

25

27

27

22

15

22

27

18

29

    Poor

33

65

7

37

22

32

40

50

27

41

34

33

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

 

TABLE 3a

CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING – Trend

“How would you rate the overall job Congress is doing?”

Base: All adults

 

TREND

Positive*

Negative**

%

%

2016

January

15

85

2015

December

12

88

 

November

10

90

October

12

88

September

9

91

August

10

90

July

11

89

June

9

91

May

9

91

April

9

91

March

7

93

February

9

91

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 3b

CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING – By Political Party, Generation, Watched SOTU & GOP Response

“How would you rate the overall job Congress is doing?”

  Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Generation

Watched SOTU

Watched GOP Response

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

15

9

23

11

28

12

7

3

20

9

22

10

    Excellent

2

*

1

4

4

2

3

*

4

*

    Pretty good

13

8

22

7

24

10

7

3

17

9

18

10

NEGATIVE

85

91

77

89

72

88

93

97

80

91

78

90

    Only fair

39

45

37

33

48

36

37

24

34

46

31

45

    Poor

46

46

40

55

24

51

56

73

46

46

47

45

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

* indicates fewer than <0.5% selected this response

— indicates no selections for this response

 

TABLE 4a

CURRENT STATE OF THE COUNTRY – By Political Party, Generation, Watched SOTU & GOP Response

“How would you rate the current state of the country?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Generation

Watched SOTU

Watched GOP Response

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

30

10

49

24

39

26

23

26

37

20

37

24

    Excellent

5

1

8

5

11

2

2

2

8

1

10

1

    Pretty good

24

9

41

19

28

24

21

25

29

19

27

23

NEGATIVE

70

90

51

76

61

74

77

74

63

80

63

76

    Only fair

44

46

43

44

37

48

48

41

41

48

35

50

    Poor

27

44

8

33

23

26

29

33

22

32

27

26

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

 


TABLE 4b

CURRENT STATE OF THE COUNTRY – By Candidates Supported

“How would you rate the current state of the country?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

Candidates Supported*

Bush

Carson

Clinton

Cruz

Rubio

Sanders

Trump

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

30

35

6

43

9

12

37

11

    Excellent

5

*

3

1

*

2

*

    Pretty good

24

35

6

40

9

12

35

11

NEGATIVE

70

65

94

57

91

88

63

89

    Only fair

44

39

54

46

44

51

49

46

    Poor

27

25

40

11

47

37

14

43

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

*Respondents were asked which two candidates currently seeking their party’s nomination they most support.

 

TABLE 5a

WHICH PARTY HAS THE BEST VISION TO ADDRESS EACH ISSUE – Summary Grid

“In your opinion, which of the two major parties has the best vision to address each of the following major issues?”

Base: All adults

 

The Republican Party

The Democratic Party

Equally good visions of how to address this

Neither has a good vision of how to address this

I don’t see this as a major issue

Not sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

Addressing immigration

%

29

28

7

21

2

13

Strengthening the economy

%

29

30

9

18

*

14

The War on Terrorism

%

28

25

11

22

1

13

Improving the job market

%

27

29

11

18

2

14

Conflicts in the Middle East

%

26

21

13

24

1

15

Making taxes/tax system fairer

%

24

29

9

22

1

15

Addressing gun violence/ firearm safety

%

23

35

7

18

4

13

Improving access to/quality of education

%

20

33

13

17

3

14

Protecting the environment

%

13

37

12

15

7

15

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

*Respondents were asked which two candidates currently seeking their party’s nomination they most support. 


TABLE 5b

REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS THE BEST VISION TO ADDRESS EACH ISSUE

By Political Party, Generation, Watched SOTU & GOP Response

“In your opinion, which of the two major parties has the best vision to address each of the following major issues?”

Base: All adults

Total

Political Party

Generation

Watched SOTU

Watched GOP Response

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Addressing immigration

29

65

9

25

22

29

33

39

30

28

35

24

Strengthening the economy

29

67

8

24

25

27

30

39

31

26

35

24

The War on Terrorism

28

62

7

26

21

29

29

42

30

25

35

22

Improving the job market

27

61

11

22

27

26

27

36

31

23

37

20

Conflicts in the Middle East

26

60

7

22

20

27

28

39

27

25

34

21

Making taxes/tax system fairer

24

58

6

18

21

23

25

32

25

22

30

19

Addressing gun violence/ firearm safety

23

54

5

19

21

23

23

26

23

22

27

19

Improving access to/quality of education

20

45

10

11

22

18

18

19

22

17

27

14

Protecting the environment

13

35

4

8

14

13

12

17

13

13

17

11

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

 

TABLE 5c

DEMOCRATIC PARTY HAS THE BEST VISION TO ADDRESS EACH ISSUE

By Political Party, Generation, Watched SOTU & GOP Response

“In your opinion, which of the two major parties has the best vision to address each of the following major issues?”

Base: All adults

Total

Political Party

Generation

Watched SOTU

Watched GOP Response

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Millennials (18-35)

Gen X (36-50)

Baby Boomers (51-69)

Matures (70+)

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Protecting the environment

37

11

61

36

41

33

35

36

48

22

44

31

Addressing gun violence/ firearm safety

35

6

65

30

40

33

33

34

46

22

42

30

Improving access to/quality of education

33

6

61

30

35

32

32

35

42

22

37

31

Strengthening the economy

30

3

61

21

34

24

29

31

39

18

36

25

Making taxes/tax system fairer

29

3

55

24

31

28

28

30

38

19

32

27

Improving the job market

29

3

55

23

31

26

28

31

36

19

32

26

Addressing immigration

28

5

53

23

34

29

23

26

37

18

34

24

The War on Terrorism

25

4

51

14

32

21

21

22

34

13

31

20

Conflicts in the Middle East

21

3

42

14

24

21

18

21

28

12

24

19

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


TABLE 6

WATCHED STATE OF THE UNION

“This previous Tuesday night (January 12th), President Obama gave his State of the Union address to the American people. Did you watch the State of the Union address this year?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

%

Yes – all of it

27

Yes – some of it

28

No

45

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

 

TABLE 7

WATCHED REPUBLICAN RESPONSE TO STATE OF THE UNION

“And did you watch the official Republican response to the State of the Union address, delivered by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley?”

Base: All adults

 

Total

%

Yes – all of it

21

Yes – some of it

22

No

57

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

 

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 9 and 14, 2015 among 2,252 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, 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, 2016

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