Americans More Optimistic on Job of President and Congress

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – January 31, 2011 – A new year often brings resolutions and hopes for a new beginning. This year for many Americans the new year seems to have also brought a renewed sense of optimism towards the President, the direction of the country and, to a lesser degree, even Congress. When asked to rate the overall job President Obama is doing, over two in five Americans (44%) give him positive ratings and just over half (56%) give him negative marks. This is better than in December when just 36% gave the President positive marks and 64% gave him negative ratings.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,566 adults surveyed online between January 17 and 24, 2011 by Harris Interactive. Please note this survey was conducted before President Obama delivered his State of the Union address.

    There are some interesting differences in the President’s job ratings. Easterners and Southerners are the most differing in their views with those in the East being split down the middle as half give him positive ratings (50%) and half give him negative marks (50%). Southerners, on the other hand, are still most negative as 60% give the President negative ratings. There is also an educational difference with three in five of those with a high school or less education (61%) giving the President negative marks on his job while three in five of those with a post graduate degree (62%) give him positive ratings.

    With the new Congress now sworn in, there is a small uptick in their ratings as well. Last month 11% gave them positive ratings while 89% gave Congress negative marks. This month 16% of Americans give Congress positive ratings and 84% give them negative ones. Interestingly, Republicans may now have control of one chamber, but that isn’t positively affecting Republicans’ views. Just 8% of Republicans give Congress positive ratings compared to 10% of Independents and 25% of Democrats.

    There is also some optimism in the way the country is going. Almost two in five Americans (37%) now say it is going in the right direction while 63% say it is going off on the wrong track. Last month, less than three in ten (29%) said things were going in the right direction and 71% believed they were going off on the wrong track.

    When it comes to the issues that the government needs to address, over one-third of Americans (35%) say health care, the first time this has popped to the top of the list in months. However, the rest of the top five all make it clear one thing is still on the minds of Americans-the economy. On the list of the most important issues, after health care is employment/jobs (33%), the economy (24%), budget/government spending issues (13%), and national debt/deficit (12%).

    So What?

    Americans seem to be more positive and the question now becomes how the State of the Union address changes things. President Obama is now at his highest approval ratings since October, 2009 and even Congress is at their highest point since April of last year. This may be the start of things turning around, but one month does not a trend make.

     

    TABLE 1

    PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING – TREND

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

    Base: All adults

     

    2009

    Mar

    April

    May

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Oct

    Nov

    Dec

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    POSITIVE

    55

    58

    59

    54

    51

    49

    45

    43

    41

    Excellent

    17

    18

    17

    14

    11

    11

    10

    9

    7

    Pretty good

    38

    40

    42

    39

    39

    38

    35

    33

    33

    NEGATIVE

    45

    42

    41

    46

    49

    51

    55

    57

    59

    Only fair

    27

    26

    25

    25

    25

    25

    27

    29

    30

    Poor

    18

    15

    16

    21

    24

    26

    28

    29

    30

     

    2010

    2011

    Jan

    Mar

    April

    May

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Oct

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    POSITIVE

    40

    41

    41

    42

    39

    40

    38

    37

    38

    36

    44

    Excellent

    9

    9

    9

    10

    6

    9

    9

    8

    8

    7

    10

    Pretty good

    31

    32

    31

    32

    33

    31

    29

    29

    30

    28

    34

    NEGATIVE

    60

    59

    59

    58

    61

    60

    62

    63

    62

    64

    56

    Only fair

    30

    28

    26

    28

    29

    26

    28

    30

    29

    31

    28

    Poor

    30

    31

    33

    30

    32

    34

    34

    33

    33

    34

    29

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

     

    TABLE 2

    PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING – BY PARTY & IDEOLOGY

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

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Political party

    Political Philosophy

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    Cons.

    Mod.

    Lib.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    POSITIVE

    44

    8

    78

    36

    14

    49

    77

    Excellent

    10

    3

    20

    5

    2

    8

    24

    Pretty good

    34

    5

    58

    31

    11

    41

    52

    NEGATIVE

    56

    92

    22

    64

    86

    51

    23

    Only fair

    28

    32

    17

    33

    30

    31

    17

    Poor

    29

    59

    5

    31

    56

    20

    6

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

     

    TABLE 3

    PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING – BY REGION, EDUCATION & GENDER

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

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Region

    Education

    Gender

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    H.S. or less

    Some college

    College grad

    Post grad

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    POSITIVE

    44

    50

    44

    40

    44

    39

    43

    48

    62

    42

    45

    Excellent

    10

    15

    6

    9

    9

    10

    8

    9

    15

    13

    7

    Pretty good

    34

    35

    37

    31

    35

    29

    35

    39

    47

    30

    38

    NEGATIVE

    56

    50

    56

    60

    56

    61

    57

    52

    38

    58

    55

    Only fair

    28

    28

    30

    27

    26

    30

    29

    25

    20

    25

    30

    Poor

    29

    22

    27

    33

    29

    31

    29

    28

    18

    33

    24

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

     

    TABLE 4

    CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING

    How would you rate the overall job Congress is doing?

    Base: All adults

     

    Total

    Political Party

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    POSITIVE

    16

    8

    25

    10

    Excellent

    3

    1

    7

    2

    Pretty good

    12

    7

    19

    8

    NEGATIVE

    84

    92

    75

    90

    Only fair

    46

    43

    52

    39

    Poor

    38

    48

    23

    51

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

     

    TABLE 5

    CONGRESS’ OVERALL JOB RATING – TREND

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

    Base: All adults

     

    TREND

    Positive

    Negative

    %

    %

    2011

    January

    16

    84

    2010

    December

    11

    89

     

    November

    13

    87

    October

    11

    89

    September

    13

    87

    August

    15

    85

    June

    14

    86

    May

    15

    85

    April

    16

    84

    March

    10

    90

    Jan.

    16

    84

    2009

    Dec.

    17

    83

     

    Oct.

    16

    84

    Sept.

    19

    81

    Aug.

    22

    78

    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.

    Note: Prior to March, 2009, this question was asked by telephone.

     

    TABLE 6

    RIGHT DIRECTION OR WRONG TRACK

    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

    %

    %

    2011

    January

    37

    63

    2010

    December

    29

    71

     

    November

    33

    67

    October

    34

    66

    September

    36

    64

    June

    34

    66

    April

    39

    61

    March

    33

    67

    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

    Note: Prior to March, 2009 this question was asked via telephone

     

    TABLE 7

    MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE

    What do you think are the two most important issues for the government to address?

    Spontaneous, unprompted replies

    Base: All adults

    ’97

    ’98

    ’99

    ’00

    ’01

    ’02

    ’03

    ’04

    ’05

    ’06

    07

    08

    09

    09

    10

    10

    10

    10

    10

    ’11

    May

    Jan

    Feb

    Aug

    Dec

    Dec

    June

    Oct

    Aug

    June

    Oct

    Oct

    Mar

    Nov

    Jan

    Apr

    June

    Sept

    Nov

    Jan

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Healthcare (not Medicare)

    10

    11

    12

    15

    5

    10

    14

    18

    11

    12

    25

    22

    25

    47

    45

    34

    23

    24

    30

    35

    Employment/jobs

    5

    3

    4

    4

    7

    8

    8

    10

    3

    7

    5

    5

    21

    24

    31

    34

    28

    37

    36

    33

    The economy (non-specific)

    8

    9

    7

    5

    32

    34

    25

    28

    19

    14

    13

    64

    50

    34

    32

    27

    28

    34

    33

    24

    Budget/Government spending

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    5

    6

    2

    6

    11

    7

    9

    10

    11

    10

    13

    Budget deficit/National debt

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    3

    X

    X

    8

    8

    6

    8

    12

    Immigration

    2

    1

    *

    1

    1

    1

    2

    2

    3

    20

    12

    3

    4

    5

    5

    7

    12

    10

    8

    8

    Education

    15

    14

    21

    25

    12

    11

    13

    7

    8

    7

    6

    6

    5

    5

    5

    6

    6

    6

    6

    7

    Taxes

    14

    16

    12

    13

    6

    5

    11

    8

    5

    4

    3

    6

    4

    4

    4

    7

    4

    7

    7

    6

    Social security

    6

    6

    24

    16

    3

    2

    4

    4

    10

    5

    3

    3

    1

    2

    1

    2

    2

    2

    4

    3

    (The) war

    X

    X

    X

    X

    12

    18

    8

    35

    41

    27

    24

    14

    9

    9

    2

    6

    6

    4

    4

    3

    (Programs for) the poor/ poverty

    3

    2

    2

    3

    1

    2

    3

    *

    4

    4

    4

    *

    1

    2

    2

    1

    1

    2

    2

    3

    Environment

    3

    2

    3

    3

    1

    3

    2

    1

    3

    3

    3

    2

    3

    4

    3

    3

    7

    3

    2

    2

    Terrorism

    X

    X

    X

    X

    22

    17

    11

    7

    7

    4

    4

    3

    4

    3

    6

    2

    3

    2

    2

    2

    Downsizing government

    X

    X

    X

    1

    *

    X

    X

    1

    *

    1

    1

    *

    1

    2

    2

    3

    2

    2

    2

    2

    Housing

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    1

    1

    *

    *

    1

    2

    2

    6

    1

    1

    1

    1

    2

    1

    2

    Energy

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    1

    1

    4

    4

    1

    4

    3

    1

    1

    2

    5

    1

    1

    1

    Foreign policy (non-specific)

    3

    5

    4

    3

    2

    4

    2

    3

    2

    2

    4

    2

    3

    2

    2

    2

    2

    2

    2

    1

    Homeland/domestic security/public safety

    X

    X

    X

    X

    8

    9

    3

    6

    2

    2

    2

    1

    2

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    Inflation

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    1

    2

    3

    *

    1

    1

    *

    *

    *

    *

    1

    1

    Bipartisanship

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    1

    Medicare

    4

    5

    5

    6

    1

    1

    4

    3

    2

    1

    3

    2

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    2

    1

    Gas and oil prices

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    1

    1

    10

    8

    2

    1

    1

    1

    *

    1

    *

    1

    1

    1

    Crime/violence

    19

    13

    8

    10

    1

    2

    3

    1

    3

    2

    2

    1

    *

    1

    1

    1

    *

    1

    *

    1

    Afghanistan

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    2

    *

    1

    Welfare

    14

    8

    4

    2

    1

    1

    3

    *

    3

    1

    2

    *

    *

    1

    *

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    Regulating banking/financial services

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    *

    8

    1

    3

    4

    2

    2

    1

    1

    Second Amendment (Right to Bear Arms)

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    1

    Ethics in government

    *

    *

    *

    *

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    2

    1

    1

    Human/civil/women’s rights

    2

    1

    *

    1

    1

    1

    *

    1

    1

    1

    2

    *

    *

    1

    1

    *

    1

    1

    1

    1

    Homelessness

    4

    4

    3

    3

    2

    2

    1

    *

    1

    1

    3

    *

    *

    1

    1

    *

    *

    1

    *

    1

    National security

    X

    X

    2

    2

    6

    3

    6

    5

    2

    2

    2

    5

    2

    1

    4

    3

    2

    2

    1

    1

    Military/defense

    2

    2

    2

    4

    4

    1

    5

    3

    1

    4

    2

    2

    2

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    Business accountability/bailouts

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    2

    1

    1

    Income gap/Wealth distribution/Middle class

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    1

    Religion (decline of)

    *

    1

    *

    1

    2

    1

    1

    1

    *

    1

    1

    *

    *

    *

    *

    1

    1

    1

    1

    *

    Same sex rights

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    1

    1

    2

    *

    *

    1

    1

    1

    1

    *

    *

    1

    *

    Obama/president

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    1

     

     

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    *

    Infrastructure

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    *

    Abortion

    2

    2

    2

    6

    1

    1

    1

    4

    2

    1

    2

    1

    1

    1

    1

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    Programs for the elderly (not Medicare/Social Security)

    1

    1

    1

    2

    1

    1

    3

    *

    *

    *

    1

    1

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    *

    Judicial/Legal Issues

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    X

    *

    2

    1

    1

     

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    *

    *

    *

    Iraq

    *

    *

    1

    X

    X

    11

    3

    9

    6

    8

    14

    7

    2

    4

    2

    2

    2

    *

    1

    *

    Other1

    8

    19

    2

    19

    3

    8

    8

    8

    1

    6

    5

    15

    5

    3

    1

    3

    2

    5

    6

    5

    Not sure/refused/no issue

    9

    12

    16

    18

    11

    10

    12

    9

    8

    6

    8

    4

    4

    3

    2

    2

    4

    1

    2

    4

    *= Less than 0.5%, X = Not mentioned as specific issue

    1 Including prescription drug prices, credit problems, trade, disability, corporate scandals, right to bear arms, youth and government (other)

    Note: Prior to March, 2009, this question was asked via telephone

     

    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

    Q1205, 1208, 1210, 1215

    The Harris Poll ® #11, January 31, 2011

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll, Public Relations and Youth Research, Harris Interactive

    About Harris Interactive

    Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.