Three in Five Americans Give President Obama Negative Job Ratings

NEW YORK, N.Y. – May 21, 2010 – While President Obama has focused on the economy and working with Democrats in Congress to overhaul the financial industry, other crises have come into play – most prominently, the oil spill in the Gulf. This again has forced his attention from the one thing the public cares most about – finding jobs and getting the economy back on track.

Currently, two in five Americans (42%) give President Obama positive ratings on the overall job he is doing while 58% give him negative ratings. This is almost unchanged from last month when 41% gave him positive ratings and 59% gave him negative ones.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,503 adults surveyed online between May 10 and 17, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

While it is not surprising that 92% of Republicans give the president negative ratings, one-quarter of Democrats (25%) also give him negative marks as do 68% of Independents. There is also an educational gap on his approval ratings. Two-thirds of those with a high school degree or less (65%) give the president negative marks while three in five of those with a post-graduate education (61%) give him positive ratings. Just over half of those with some college or a college degree (55% and 56% respectively) give the president negative marks on his overall job.

 

President Obama as a Leader

It took the president some time to get his health care bill through Congress and that might have hurt perceptions of him as a strong leader. But, three-quarters of Americans (77%) agree that President Obama is a tough fighter for what he believes in, while two-thirds say he is someone who usually gets his own way (65%) and that he is usually able to get Congress to support his policies (64%).

However there is also a perception that President Obama has bitten off more than he can chew and that he changes his position frequently. Three in five Americans (62%) say President Obama tries to do too many things at once, while 58% say he is a strong leader. Public opinion is divided however on whether President Obama flip-flops as 44% say he is not someone who changes his position if he is strongly opposed while 43% believe the opposite.

For the most part, the differences between Republicans and Democrats are not as large as one might expect. In fact, 68% of Democrats and 66% of Republicans believe President Obama is usually able to get Congress to support his policies. Most of the other differences are around twenty percentage points, yet there is one notable exception. While almost nine in ten Democrats (87%) say President Obama is a strong leader, only 23% of Republicans agree.

 

So What?

In April almost two in five Americans (39%) thought the country was going in the right direction; this was a high not seen since October of last year. This month, it has dropped again and just 36% believe the country is going in the right direction while 64% believe things have gotten off on the wrong track. When the attitudes of Americans are this negative about the country as a whole, for a president’s numbers to really increase he would have to accomplish something that impacts people where they are hurting the most. Right now, that is still economically, and the recent volatility of the stock market further reinforces that in people’s minds, even if they are not serious investors. Until this changes, President Obama’s approval ratings will mostly likely not change.

 

TABLE 1

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S JOB RATING – TREND

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

Base: All adults

 

2009

2010

Mar.

April

May

June

Aug.

Sept.

Oct.

Nov.

Dec.

Jan.

Mar.

April

May

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

55

58

59

54

51

49

45

43

41

40

41

41

42

Excellent

17

18

17

14

11

11

10

9

7

9

9

9

10

Pretty good

38

40

42

39

39

38

35

33

33

31

32

31

32

NEGATIVE

45

42

41

46

49

51

55

57

59

60

59

59

58

Only fair

27

26

25

25

25

25

27

29

30

30

28

26

28

Poor

18

15

16

21

24

26

28

29

30

30

31

33

30

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

 

 

TABLE 2

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

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

Base: All adults

 

Total

Political Party

Education

Gender

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

H.S. or less

Some college

College grad.

Post grad.

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

POSITIVE

42

8

75

32

35

45

44

61

39

45

Excellent

10

1

20

6

7

10

11

16

9

10

Pretty good

32

7

56

26

28

35

33

45

30

35

NEGATIVE

58

92

25

68

65

55

56

39

61

55

Only fair

28

28

20

36

30

24

33

20

27

29

Poor

30

64

5

32

35

31

23

19

34

26

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

 


TABLE 3

OBAMA LEADERSHIP STATEMENTS

Do you agree with the following statements about President Barack Obama or not?

Base: All adults

 

Agree

(NET)

Strongly

Agree

Somewhat

Agree

Disagree

(NET)

Somewhat Disagree

Strongly

Disagree

Not at all sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Is a tough fighter for what he believes in

77

45

33

16

9

7

7

Is someone who usually gets his own way

65

23

42

23

18

5

12

Is usually able to get Congress to support his policies

64

17

47

27

19

8

9

Tries to do too many things at once

62

35

27

29

20

9

9

Is a strong leader

58

32

25

38

14

24

4

Changes his position if he is strongly opposed

43

16

27

44

29

15

13

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

 

 

TABLE 4

OBAMA LEADERSHIP STATEMENTS – BY GENERATION & POLITICAL PARTY

Do you agree with the following statements about President Barack Obama or not?

Percent saying Strongly/Somewhat agree

Base: All adults

 

Total

Generation

Political Party

Echo Boomers (18-33)

Gen X.

(34-45)

Baby Boomers (46-64)

Matures (65+)

Rep.

Dem.

Ind.

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Is a tough fighter for what he believes in

77

71

76

82

79

66

88

78

Is someone who usually gets his own way

65

56

65

69

74

78

61

64

Is usually able to get Congress to support his policies

64

54

63

69

71

66

68

62

Tries to do too many things at once

62

55

60

63

73

77

52

64

Is a strong leader

58

62

63

57

46

23

87

53

Changes his position if he is strongly opposed

43

38

41

43

54

54

36

46

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


 

TABLE 5

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

%

%

2010

May

36

64

 

April

39

61

March

33

67

January

37

63

2009

December

37

63

 

October

39

61

August

46

54

June

43

57

March

32

68

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

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 10 to 17, 2010 among 2,503 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.

J38300

Q1205, 1210, 1215, 1220

The Harris Poll ® #70, May 21, 2010

By Regina A. Corso, Director The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

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