More than a month after his November victory, President-elect Barack Obama is enjoying a larger post-election honeymoon with the American public than his recent predecessors did, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Two out of three respondents say they’re pleased with Obama’s early appointments and three-fourths believe that the level of his involvement in making policy has been exactly right.
Another two-thirds view the president-elect in a positive light — a rating that's more favorable than the numbers Bill Clinton and George W. Bush received 1992 and 2000.
These scores, combined with the fact that nearly 80 percent believe Obama will face bigger challenges than other recent presidents have, seem to have given the president-elect some early leeway with Americans, says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted this survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart.
“Compared to Bill Clinton in ’93 or Bush in ’01, we’re seeing a president who has been given a longer leash by the American public,” McInturff said. “This is not a traditional start of a presidency where people give you just a couple of months.”
Indeed, the poll shows Obama with a 67 percent to 16 percent positive/negative rating. That’s compared with the 48 percent to 35 percent rating Bush had in December 2000 and Clinton’s 60 percent to 19 percent rating in December 1992.
(Both sets of ratings came from earlier NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls.)
What’s more, overwhelming majorities believe it’s likely that Obama will accomplish some of the goals set forth in his campaign.
- 80 percent say it’s likely he’ll improve American’s image around the world.
- 73 percent say it’s likely he’ll put the economy back on track.
- 70 percent say it’s likely that he’ll pull most U.S. troops out of Iraq within the next 16 months.
- 61 percent say he’ll reduce taxes for the middle class.
The only goal listed in the poll that finds Obama falling short of a majority is whether he’ll reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interests. Forty-seven percent say it’s likely he’ll accomplish that goal, while an equal amount say it’s unlikely.
But Hart, the Democratic pollster, cautions that these “sky-high” expectations “should be viewed as hopes rather than true expectations.”
He adds, “I think the judgment of President Obama will be based on less than his performance on the issues and more on his character and his style of leadership.”
Nevertheless, one issue in particular appears likely to consume Obama’s presidency: the struggling economy.
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In the poll, 62 percent say that the economy will either get worse or stay the same in the next year; just 36 percent think it will get better.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that people who invest in the stock market are more pessimistic about the economy than those who don’t invest.
Moreover, 64 percent say they would be willing to take a 5 percent pay cut if it meant saving their job.
A negative view of Bush
While Obama seems to be enjoying a honeymoon with the public, it’s finalizing its divorce with President George W. Bush. Americans have a much more negative impression of him than they did of his father, George H.W. Bush, or Clinton before they left office.
Obama's new Cabinet?According to the poll, 79 percent say they’re not going to miss him. That’s compared with 55 percent who said that of Clinton in the December 2000 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
In addition, 48 percent believe that Bush will go down as one of the country’s worst presidents. Only 18 percent said that of Clinton, and just 6 percent said that of George H.W. Bush.
This poll was conducted among 1,009 adults from Dec. 5-8, and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.
Mark Murray covers politics for NBC News.
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