A new poll by AP-GfK released on Jan. 23 reveals that even though most Americans like Barack Obama personally, many think that he is a poor president. The poll found that while Obama’s image has rebounded in the months since the government shutdown, people are still pessimistic about the economy and the direction of the country.
The poll showed that President Obama’s likability had increased by nine percent since the end of the government shutdown in October. Fifty-eight percent of Americans now view the president as very or somewhat likeable.
The good news for the president does not extend to his policies however. The poll shows that the view of the president is slipping even among Democrats and liberals. The percentage of Americans who view Obama as outstanding or above average has declined by six points since he was reelected in November 2012. Thirty-one percent now view Obama’s presidency as outstanding or above average while 42 percent see it as below average or poor.
Even though the president’s approval rating is relatively stable, the current Real Clear Politics average shows him with 43 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval, other trends look bad for Democrats. Polls asking about the direction of the country consistently show that two-thirds of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. A Bloomberg poll also released on Jan. 23 found that 58 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, his worst showing since September 2011.
In spite of Obama’s personal popularity, his policies provide an opening for Republicans in this year’s midterm elections. A Fox News poll from earlier this week showed that Americans view the economy as the most important problem for Congress and the president to face. More than three times as many voters chose the economy as the next most serious problems, health care and the federal deficit. Jobs/unemployment and federal spending were the most important economic issues. President Obama scored poorly on all of these issues.
The poll numbers suggest that personal attacks on President Obama, who will not face reelection, will fare poorly with voters. Criticism of Democratic handling of the economy, health care and government spending is likely to be much better received by voters.
The current view of President Obama seems best described by Joshua Parker, a 37-year-old small businessman from Smyrna, Tenn. who is quoted in the AP-GfK poll. “He would probably be a guy I would like to hang out with if he wasn’t president,” Parker says, “but I like a lot of people who are not qualified to be president.”