President Obama’s Ratings Remain Stronger than in the Recent Past

The north side of the White House looking at the Rose Garden

NEW YORK , N.Y. – February 24, 2015 – Last month, many polls – including this one – noted improving attitudes on President Obama’s job performance, both before and after the State of the Union address. New findings show that while there has been some slippage since the post-SOTU afterglow, the President’s ratings remain up from previous months both in general and regarding his performance on the Economy in particular. Similar trends can be seen for perceptions on the direction of the country.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,221 U.S. adults surveyed online between February 11 and 17, 2015.

Looking at overall ratings for the job President Obama is doing, the President’s positive ratings, currently at 38%, have slipped somewhat from the 42% recorded in the days following the SOTU but are comparable to the 39% seen just prior to the speech. Furthermore, this rating is higher than any the President saw throughout the latter half of last year.

Positive ratings for the President’s handling of the economy tell a similar tale. Forty percent (40%) of U.S. adults give President Obama positive ratings on this aspect of his job performance, down marginally from the 42% indicating the same just after the SOTU but comparable to the 39% giving positive ratings in the days just before the address. What’s more, with the exception of the post-SOTU peak, one would have to look as far back as 2009 to find higher ratings for the President’s performance on the economy.

  • In less-than-breaking news, wide attitudinal gaps exist along party lines. Two-thirds of Democrats give the President positive ratings on both his overall job performance (66%) and his performance as relates to the economy (67%), while overwhelming majorities of Republicans give the President negative ratings on both these points (94% and 90%, respectively). As for Independents, majorities give the President negative ratings on both his general performance (66%) and his handling of the economy (63%).

On the issues

Looking more specifically at attitudes on President Obama’s performance on a variety of issues, the President shows a mix of ups and downs in comparison to past ratings. Positive ratings for his handling of jobs (42%), for example, are up by 10 percentage points since last year (when 32% gave him positive ratings on this aspect of his job performance).

Positive attitudes toward his handling of terrorism, on the other hand, are down by 10 points (from 48% last year to 38% this year). At 29%, positive ratings for his handling of the unrest in the Middle East are identical to 2014 findings but are below results seen prior to that (with this measure peaking at 40% in January 2013).

Positive ratings for the President’s job performance show more ups and downs on some issues than on others:

  • Four in ten (40%) rate him positively for his handling of the environment, representing an improvement over last year (35%) but falling short of the 44% peak seen in January 2013.
  • Education and immigration tell similar tales; the 39% rating President Obama positively on his handling of education reflects a small improvement over 2014 findings (36%), but a drop from the January 2013 peak of 47%. Similarly, the 31% rating him favorably on his handling of immigration is up marginally from last year (when it was 29%), but is down from its May 2013 peak of 35%.
  • On healthcare and gun control, the President’s positive ratings of 39% and 25%, respectively, are relatively unchanged from last year (when they were 38% and 24%) but are down vs. earlier measures. Positive ratings for his handling of healthcare peaked at 43% in January 2013, while positive attitudes toward his handling of gun control peaked at 33% in May of that same year.

Direction of the country

Much like attitudes towards the President, positive attitudes toward the state of the country itself have slipped back to pre-SOTU levels but remain higher than in the recent past. Though the majority of Americans (62%) feel things in the country have gotten off on the wrong track, the 38% saying things are going in the right direction is higher than at any point last year.

  • Over eight in ten Republicans (84%) and two-thirds of Independents (67%) say things in the country have gotten off on the wrong track, while roughly six in ten Democrats (59%) say things in the country are going in the right direction.

Though Americans’ views of President Obama’s handling of the economy have improved, less improvement is apparent for attitudes toward the state of the economy in general. At 28%, the percentage of Americans expecting the economy to improve in the coming year is down from last month (when it was 32%) but on par with the two months prior (27% in November and 28% in December).

Congress drops out of the double digits

After the SOTU address, positive ratings just barely broke into the double digits (at 10%) for the first time since last June; this month Congressional approval drops just enough to bring it back into the single digits, at 9%. The remaining 91% of U.S. adults give Congress negative ratings.

  • Vast majorities across the political spectrum display low opinions of Congress – and none more so than Independents, 94% of whom give Congress negative ratings (vs. 90% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats).

Want Harris Polls delivered direct to your inbox? Click here!


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

Feb

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 PARTY, PRE/POST SOTU & WATCHED SOTU

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

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Political Ideology

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

38

6

66

34

12

40

72

Excellent

8

1

16

5

4

7

16

Pretty good

30

5

50

29

8

33

56

NEGATIVE

62

94

34

66

88

60

28

Only fair

27

24

25

31

23

32

23

Poor

35

69

9

35

65

28

5

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

 

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)

Feb

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE (NET)

28

31

31

32

35

32

30

30

29

33

35

34

39

42

40

Excellent

5

4

5

5

5

7

7

6

6

5

8

9

10

10

9

Pretty good

23

27

26

27

29

25

23

25

24

27

26

25

29

32

31

NEGATIVE (NET)

72

69

69

68

65

68

70

70

71

67

65

66

61

58

60

Only fair

30

29

27

29

26

28

27

31

31

29

29

30

26

27

28

Poor

42

40

42

39

39

40

43

39

40

38

36

36

34

31

32

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

 

Total

Political Party

Political Ideology

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

40

10

67

37

17

43

68

Excellent

9

1

17

7

5

6

19

Pretty good

31

9

50

30

12

36

49

NEGATIVE

60

90

33

63

83

57

32

Only fair

28

27

27

32

26

31

26

Poor

32

63

7

32

57

26

6

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

 

TABLE 3a

RATINGS OF JOB OBAMA IS DOING ON SPECIFIC ISSUES

How would you rate the overall job President Barack Obama is doing on each of the following?

Base: U.S. Adults

 

POSITIVE

Excellent

Pretty good

NEGATIVE

Only fair

Poor

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Jobs

42

14

28

52

23

29

6

The environment

40

9

31

51

27

23

9

Healthcare

39

18

21

57

16

40

4

Education

39

10

29

54

28

27

7

Terrorism

38

10

28

55

20

35

7

Foreign policy

31

7

25

59

23

36

9

Immigration

31

8

23

62

18

44

7

The unrest in the Middle East

29

5

24

63

24

38

8

Gun control

25

5

20

63

26

37

12

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


TABLE 3b

RATINGS OF JOB OBAMA IS DOING ON SPECIFIC ISSUES

Tracking & by Political Affiliation

Percent Saying Excellent/Pretty Good

How would you rate the overall job President Barack Obama is doing on each of the following?

Base: U.S. Adults

Feb 2011 Total

Jan 2013 Total

May

April

Feb 2015 Total

Political Affiliation

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Jobs

29

39

37

32

42

17

65

41

The environment

41

44

41

35

40

16

59

41

Healthcare

37

43

39

38

39

11

65

37

Education

39

47

41

36

39

13

62

36

Terrorism

NA

NA

47

48

38

12

61

36

Foreign policy

NA

NA

NA

32

31

9

51

30

Immigration

NA

34

35

29

31

6

52

31

The unrest in the Middle East

39

40

35

29

29

8

48

26

Gun control

NA

27

33

24

25

9

39

24

 

TABLE 4a

CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING – Trend

How would you rate the overall job Congress is doing?

Base: All adults

 

TREND

Positive

Negative

%

%

2015

Feb

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 4b

CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING

How would you rate the overall job Congress is doing?

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Political Ideology

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

9

10

12

6

9

9

11

Excellent

1

1

2

 

1

1

1

Pretty good

8

9

10

6

7

8

10

NEGATIVE

91

90

88

94

91

91

89

Only fair

38

47

35

34

42

39

31

Poor

53

43

53

60

49

52

58

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

indicates fewer than <0.5% selected this response

 

TABLE 5a

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

Feb

38

62

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 5b

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

 

Total

Political Party

Political Ideology

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

Cons.

Mod.

Lib.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Right direction

38

16

59

33

19

41

60

Wrong track

62

84

41

67

81

59

40

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


TABLE 6a

EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR – TREND

In the coming year, do you expect the economy to…?

Base: All adults

2009

2010

April

May

Aug

Sept

Oct

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

39

38

46

40

34

38

30

29

28

30

34

29

Stay the same

35

35

32

36

37

34

42

39

40

40

41

45

Get worse

26

27

22

24

29

28

28

32

32

30

25

26

2011

2012

2013

Feb

June

July

Sept

Oct

Dec

Feb

Dec

Feb

March

April

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

34

26

23

21

20

23

36

33

32

30

29

32

32

29

27

22

22

25

27

Stay the same

42

41

41

45

46

47

40

31

40

37

41

42

41

44

42

46

37

44

42

Get worse

25

33

37

34

34

29

24

36

28

33

29

25

27

27

31

32

41

32

32

2014

2015

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

June

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

26

26

24

26

22

25

22

26

27

28

32

28

Stay the same

44

43

45

48

51

46

49

45

51

50

47

49

Get worse

30

32

31

27

26

29

29

29

22

23

21

23

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

 

TABLE 6b

EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ECONOMY IN THE COMING YEAR

By Generation, Gender & Political Party

In the coming year, do you expect the economy to…?

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Political Party

Millennials

Gen. Xers

Baby Boomers

Matures

Male

Female

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Improve

28

33

21

29

28

34

24

10

46

26

Stay the same

49

53

53

42

47

47

50

53

44

50

Get worse

23

13

26

29

25

19

26

37

10

23

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


TABLE 7a

EXPECTATIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CONDITION IN NEXT SIX MONTHS

Thinking about your household’s financial condition, do you expect it to be better or worse in the next 6 months?

Base: All adults

2013

2014

Feb

Mar

April

May

June

July

Sept

Oct

Nov

Jan

Feb

Mar

May

June

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

23

21

22

26

24

24

19

18

20

23

22

21

24

23

23

24

22

21

22

22

Much better

3

3

4

5

4

5

4

3

4

4

4

4

5

4

6

6

4

3

4

4

Somewhat better

20

17

18

20

20

19

15

15

16

18

19

17

20

19

18

18

18

18

18

19

Will remain the same

50

49

49

50

53

49

52

48

50

49

52

52

52

54

51

51

53

53

57

56

WORSE (NET)

27

30

28

24

23

26

29

34

30

29

26

27

23

23

26

25

25

26

21

21

Somewhat worse

20

21

20

18

17

18

21

24

19

19

18

19

17

17

18

17

18

18

16

15

Much worse

7

9

8

6

6

9

8

11

11

10

8

8

7

7

8

8

7

8

5

6

2015

Jan

Feb

%

%

BETTER (NET)

27

26

Much better

6

5

Somewhat better

21

21

Will remain the same

53

55

WORSE (NET)

21

19

Somewhat worse

15

15

Much worse

6

4

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

 

TABLE 7b

EXPECTATIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CONDITION IN NEXT SIX MONTHS

By Generation, Gender & Political Party

Thinking about your household’s financial condition, do you expect it to be better or worse in the next 6 months?

Base: All adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Political Party

Millennials

Gen. Xers

Baby Boomers

Matures

Male

Female

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

BETTER (NET)

26

38

24

22

9

28

24

16

37

23

Much better

5

9

4

3

1

5

5

2

6

5

Somewhat better

21

29

20

19

8

23

19

14

31

18

Will remain the same

55

49

55

57

65

55

55

58

53

54

WORSE (NET)

19

12

21

22

26

17

21

26

10

23

Somewhat worse

15

9

17

16

24

14

16

21

8

18

Much worse

4

3

5

5

2

4

5

5

2

5

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

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between February 13 and 17, 2015 among 2,221 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® #13, February 24, 2015

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