Obama's Job Approval Continues to Rise in Latest Poll, Thanks to Independents


Bruce Drake

Contributing Editor
Most recent polls have shown President Barack Obama's job approval ratings moving up slowly and surely to the magic 50 percent mark, or even a little beyond. In many surveys last year they had fallen to the mid-40s.

A new CNN/Opinion Research poll, released a day before Obama gives his State of the Union Address, now has his approval rating at 55 percent.

Last week, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, conducted Jan. 13-17, said those surveyed approved of Obama's performance by a 53 percent to 41 percent margin -- a jump of eight points since December in those who approved of the job he was doing, and a decline of 7 points when it came to those who disapproved.

Obama's rebound has been attributed to a variety of factors ranging from his handling of the Arizona shooting tragedy to the extension of Bush-era tax cuts and unemployment benefits that he negotiated during the lame-duck session. His ability to strike a deal sat well with many independents who, polls shows, want to see the parties work together more to get things accomplished. An AP/GfK poll, conducted Jan. 5-10, found 46 percent of independents saying that Obama deserved to be re-elected while 43 percent did not, with 10 percent undecided.

The CNN poll, conducted Jan. 21-23, had Obama's approval-to-disapproval margin at 55 percent to 44 percent. In mid-December, the poll found Americans split at 48 percent each as to whether or not they approved of his performance. (In all these figures, the remainder were undecided).

Perhaps the best news for Obama in the CNN poll is the fact that independents, who had soured on him and the Democrats during last year's midterm campaign, said they approved of his performance by a 54 percent to 45 percent margin, with 1 percent undecided. In the December poll, independents disapproved of the job he was doing by a 54 percent to 41 percent margin, with 5 percent undecided.

Fifty-four percent of all those surveyed still disapprove of Obama's handling of the economy compared to 45 percent who approve, a finding consistent with most other recent polls. But other surveys, and this one too, show that the level of disapproval on this issue is falling. In November, 58 percent disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy while 40 percent approved.

But the public continues to pan Obama when it comes to dealing with the federal deficit. Sixty-percent disapprove of his handling of it while 38 percent approve, a margin that has been about the same dating back to January 2010.

While the new Congress, with the House in Republican hands, is still in its infancy, it gets marks from the public that are as negative as those lawmakers received last year. Seventy-two percent disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job.

Obama also fares better than congressional Democrats or Republicans when it comes who those surveyed think will move the country in the right direction.

Americans say Obama's policies will move the country the right way by a 52 percent to 47 percent margin. But they say the policies of Senate and House GOP leaders will move the country in the wrong direction by 50 percent to 46 percent. Fifty-two percent say the policies of Democratic congressional leaders will move the country in the wrong direction compared to 45 percent who say they will move it in the right direction.

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