An overwhelming majority of Americans like president Barack Obama, but most say he has not accomplished much on two top goals – fixing the sluggish economy and changing how Washington works, according to a new poll.
Half of those surveyed say he deserves a second term, and independents, whose support will be critical in 2012 if he runs for re-election, are evenly divided on that question. Mr Obama is getting the benefit of the doubt despite concerns about his policies, a reflection based in large part on his likeability.
The AP-GfK poll is a snapshot in time half-way through Mr Obama’s administration, and plenty could happen between now and November 2012.
This includes an economic upturn that could cut the 9.4% unemployment rate. But, in a polarised nation, the findings portend a competitive presidential race no matter who the Republican candidate is.
Although beating an incumbent is tough, Republicans sense an opening, given the sluggish economic recovery and Obama’s acknowledged failure to fulfil his promise of doing business differently in a partisan Washington.
Overall, 53% of Americans approve of how Mr Obama is governing, putting him roughly in the middle when compared with his modern-day successors halfway through their first terms.
Almost as many people rate Obama’s presidency below average (34%) as call it above average (38%). Forty-one percent overall – and 30% among independents – say he understands the important issues America will face the next two years. Only 26% say he has kept most of his campaign promises.
Despite his lukewarm policy marks, Obama has an enormous advantage because of how people see him personally; a whopping 83% call him likeable, and 59% view him favorably. Majorities also consider him empathetic (63%), a strong leader (62%) and in-touch with ordinary Americans (61%).
The numbers are similar to the ones President Ronald Reagan faced before winning a second term in 1984.