Midway into his term, President Barack Obama may be finding his political sea legs. According to this national McClatchy-Marist Poll, when asked about how the president will perform during his next two years in office, 61% of registered voters are optimistic, saying the president will do better than he did in the previous two years of his term. About one in five voters — 21% — think he will do a worse job, and 5% believe he will perform about the same as he already has. 12% are unsure.
A majority of independent voters — 55% — and even a plurality of Republican voters — 41% — think the president will make greater strides in his performance during the next two years than he has in the past two. Not surprisingly, most Democrats — 85% — also expect the president to do better in the future.
“Looking ahead to the next two years, voters are once again hopeful about President Obama,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.
Also noteworthy, 35% of registered voters who disapprove of the president’s job performance think he will do better in the second half of his term than he did in the first two years.
Obama Approval Rating Rebounds
Voters’ positive attitude toward the president is reflected in his job approval rating. 48% of registered voters nationally approve of the job President Obama is doing in office while 43% disapprove. Nine percent are unsure. After declining to its lowest point at the end of 2010, the president’s approval rating is back up. When McClatchy-Marist last asked about the president’s approval rating in December, Mr. Obama’s approval rating stood at 42%. Half — 50% — disapproved, and 8% were unsure.
The president has improved his standing among independent voters. Currently, members of this key voting group divide. 44% approve of the job the president is doing while the same proportion — 44% — disapprove. 11% are unsure. This is a notable change from McClatchy-Marist’s December survey when only 39% of independents gave the president high marks, and a majority — 52% — shook their heads in disapproval. Nine percent, at that time, were unsure. The president’s base has also solidified. 84% of Democrats approve of Mr. Obama’s job performance while 9% disapprove. Seven percent are unsure. In December, those proportions stood at 74%, 21%, and 5%, respectively. Among the national GOP, little has changed. Nine percent approve of the president’s job performance, 83% disapprove, and 8% are unsure. This compares with 7%, 87%, and 6%, respectively, who shared these views in December.
“President Obama is back on firmer footing politically,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “His Democratic base is more secure, and his improvement among independent voters is key.”
Mr. Obama’s support among women is also up. A majority — 51% — now say the president is doing well in office compared with 44% in December. Among men, 44% currently give the president a positive score compared with 39% last month.
Majority View Obama Favorably
Registered voters also have a more positive overall impression of the president. A majority — 53% — report they have a favorable view of President Obama compared with 40% of those who say they have an unfavorable impression of him. Eight percent are unsure. Voters divided in McClatchy-Marist’s November 24th survey. Then, 47% had a favorable opinion of the president while 49% did not. Four percent were unsure.
Independents make the difference here, as well. A majority of these voters — 53% — have a positive view of Mr. Obama while 42% hold him in low esteem. Five percent are unsure. The president’s favorability rating has flipped among independents since late November. At that time, a majority — 52% — perceived the president unfavorably while 44% saw him favorably. Four percent were unsure.
Nation on the Straight and Narrow
President Obama is benefitting from a narrowing of the gap between Americans who think the country is moving in the wrong direction and those who think it is on the right course. For the first time since December of 2009, a majority of Americans do not think the country is moving in the wrong direction. Currently, 47% believe the country is traveling on the wrong path while 41% say it is on the right path, 12% are unsure. When McClatchy-Marist last asked this question in December, nearly six in ten adults — 58% — believed the nation needed to be re-directed while 34% said it was on the proper course. Eight percent were unsure.
Democrats are most positive. 66% believe the nation is moving in the right direction while 23% do not. In December, those proportions stood at 56% and 37%, respectively. Although a majority of independents still see the country as traveling on the wrong road, the proportion that share this view has declined. Among independents, 40% currently say the nation is moving in the right direction compared with 51% who think it is on the wrong path. In December, 32% said the nation was headed in the correct direction while 62% thought it needed a new compass. More than seven in ten Republicans — 72% — think the country is moving in the wrong direction. In December, 79% had this view.
Obama Leads Potential 2012 GOP Challengers
Looking ahead to 2012, when paired up against three prominent members of the GOP, Obama currently has the advantage.
First, when matched up against former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Obama outpaces Palin by 26 percentage points. Obama receives the support of a majority of voters — 56% — to Palin’s 30%. 13% are undecided. When McClatchy-Marist last asked about this potential contest in December, Obama had a 12 percentage point lead over Palin, 52% to 40%, respectively, with 9% reporting they were undecided.
Among women, Obama has a 33 percentage point advantage over Palin. Among this group of voters, the president receives 60% to Palin’s 27%. In December, the president garnered the support of 50% of women to Palin’s 39%, an 11 percentage point difference. Looking at men, Obama receives 52% to 35% for Palin. In McClatchy-Marist’s previous survey, 53% of men backed Obama while 40% supported Palin.
Obama also leads former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. A slim majority — 51% — back Obama compared with 38% for Romney. 11% are undecided. In December, voters divided with 44% backing the president and 46% supporting Romney. 10% were undecided.
Independent voters make the difference in this hypothetical contest. A plurality of independents — 47% — report they would back Obama while 37% support Romney. 16% are undecided. Last month, Romney had the advantage among this group of voters. At that time, 47% of independent voters were behind Romney while 39% said they supported Obama. 14% were undecided.
When matched up against former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Obama also outpaces his GOP challenger. Half of voters — 50% — support Obama while 38% rally for Huckabee. 12% are undecided. When McClatchy-Marist last asked about this contest in December, Obama edged Huckabee with 47% for Obama and 43% throwing their support behind Huckabee. 11% were undecided.
Obama’s support has grown among women. A majority — 52% — now support Obama compared with 36% for Huckabee. 12% are undecided. Last month, women divided. 44% backed Obama while 43% touted Huckabee, and 12% were undecided.
This poll was conducted from Thursday, January 6th, 2011 through Monday, January 10th, 2011, including the Saturday when the tragic shooting occurred in Tucson, Arizona.
Table: 2012 Hypothetical Presidential Tossup: Obama/Palin
Table: 2012 Hypothetical Presidential Tossup: Obama/Palin (Over Time)
Table: 2012 Hypothetical Presidential Tossup: Obama/Romney
Table: 2012 Hypothetical Presidential Tossup: Obama/Romney (Over Time)
Table: 2012 Hypothetical Presidential Tossup: Obama/Huckabee
Table: 2012 Hypothetical Presidential Tossup: Obama/Huckabee (Over Time)
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