3/31: Voters Divide Over Obama’s Job Performance

The passage of health insurance reform has had only a slight impact on President Barack Obama’s approval rating nationwide.  46% of registered voters approve of the job the president is doing while 43% disapprove.  11% are unsure.

President Barack Obama.


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Mr. Obama’s approval rating has been hovering in the mid-40s for several months.  When Marist last asked this question in early February, 44% thought the president was doing well in office compared with 47% who did not.  In December, 46% approved of his performance while 44% gave him low marks.

“President Obama has scored a big legislative victory, but this has only translated minimally into his job performance scores,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.  “For many voters, he still needs to swish a few three-pointers to become a driving force behind this fall’s midterm elections.”

Although more independents disapprove of the job President Obama is doing than approve, the good news for Obama is he has regained support from some of these voters.  39% of independents say he is making the grade while 45% disagree.  16% are unsure.  In February, 29% approved of Mr. Obama’s job performance while 57% disapproved.  14%, at that time, were unsure.

Among Democrats and Republicans, there is still a wide partisan divide with 77% of Democrats thinking highly of the president’s actions and 85% of Republicans disapproving.  Nearly two months ago, 81% of Democrats approved of the job Mr. Obama was doing, and 80% of Republicans disapproved.

Table: Obama Approval Rating
Table: Obama Approval Rating Over Time

Graph of Barack Obama's approval rating over time.

Click on the graph to enlarge the image.

Majority Views Obama Favorably

Although President Obama fails to win the majority of voters’ approval for the job he is doing in office, 53% of voters have a favorable impression of him.  41% currently have an unfavorable view of him.  This is a difference of 12 percentage points between his positive and negative scores, double the difference he had in February.  At that time, half of voters thought well of the president, and 44% did not.

Once again, the president has independent voters to thank for his slight bump.  49% of independents think highly of Mr. Obama, a change from 39% in February.

Democrats and Republicans are, again, on opposite ends of the spectrum.  85% of Democrats give the president a favorable rating while 83% of Republicans bestow an unfavorable rating upon him.

Table: Obama Favorability

Obama Gains Followers Along the Road to Change, But …

Most voters — 84% — think the president is changing the country, an increase from February when 75% believed that to be the case.  But, is the change for the better or for the worse?  They still divide.  43% say the president is altering the nation for the better.  This is an increase in the proportion of voters who positively view the direction President Obama is moving the country.  In February, 37% thought he was improving the United States.  Currently, 41% believe the president is changing the country for the worse. In February, that proportion stood at 38%.

There has been a marked change among the parties on this question.  While more Republicans view the president as changing the nation for the worse, more Democrats and independents perceive the impact Mr. Obama is having as one for the better.  When it comes to the GOP, there has been a 15 percentage point increase among voters who say Mr. Obama is having an adverse effect on the nation.  78% think this to be true now compared with 63% who thought that way in Marist’s February poll.  Looking at the president’s own party, 76% of Democrats believe the president is having a positive impact on the nation.  This is a seven percentage point increase from that same February survey when 69% thought that way.  And, Mr. Obama has gained support among independents.  35% of these voters report the president is improving the nation while 26% held this view two months ago.

Table: Direction President Is Moving the Country

Independents Key On Question of Expectations

A slim majority of voters — 51% — say President Obama is either meeting their expectations or is exceeding them.  45% of voters, on the other hand, believe the president has fallen below their expectations.  When Marist last asked this question in February, 49% thought Obama met or went beyond their expectations, and 47% reported he did not reach their expectations. Independents make the difference on this question.  45% of this all important voting block think the president has either hit or gone above their expectations.  This is compared with 48% who say he has missed the mark.  In February, 42% said he either met or exceeded their expectations while a majority — 53% — thought he had fallen short.

Table: Obama Meeting Expectations

Handling of the Economy Divides the Electorate

49% of voters nationwide disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy while 46% approve.  In December, 51% disapproved of the president’s fiscal skills, and 45% approved.

While the electorate splits on how Mr. Obama is handling the economy, more than six in ten voters do not believe his policies are what caused today’s tough economic times.  64% of voters say President Obama inherited the nation’s economic conditions while 27% believe they are a result of the president’s policies.  9% are unsure.

There has been little change on this question from Marist’s February poll.

Table: Handling the Economy
Table: Current Economic Conditions Inherited

Marist Poll Methodology

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