We've been following the various and sundry polls that show that Obama is not getting the blame for this financial mess (see CBS and USA Today/Gallup: AIG Is AIG's Fault, Not Obama's), and in our own Daily Kos Research 2000 poll, we've noted the right track/wrong track numbers as a key indicator (it's currently 39/59 right/wrong), along with where the independents are going.
This morning the ABC/WaPo poll affirms those findings. The graphic shows things in a nutshell, with the topline Obama job approval at 66% (MoE +/- 3) and Obama handling of the economy at 60. Michelle's favorability, btw, is at 76.
The number of Americans who believe that the nation is headed in the right direction has roughly tripled since Barack Obama's election, and the public overwhelmingly blames the excesses of the financial industry, rather than the new president, for turmoil in the economy, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
On the economy, the public sees improvement, matching other polls.
Overall perceptions about the country parallel a rapid increase in the percentage of Americans who say the economy is improving. For the first time since late 2004, the gap between the numbers saying the economy is getting better and those saying it's getting worse is in the single digits (27 percent to 36 percent).
For perspective from other polls, see pollster.com's aggregate graphic:
The implication is clearly that government intervention (stimulus, Geithner plan) as well as the more easily understood market reaction (as bad as it is to use as an indicator) is looked on favorably by the public (Geithner's latest numbers from Gallup are here; he breaks even.)
On assigning blame:
When it comes to assessing responsibility for the nation's economic plight, 80 percent said they put a "great deal" or a "good amount" of blame on banks and other financial institutions for taking unnecessary risks. The same percentage said they blame large corporations for poor management decisions. About seven in 10 blame consumers for overextending themselves with debt and the Bush administration for not vigorously regulating the financial industry.
Ah, the Bush administration. Remember them?
The WaPo staff kindly provided data on regional differences, and what we see is that in this poll, for job approval, it's the East that's the outlier; Obama is better approved of there than other regions, but he's doing well everywhere.
Net Approve Disapprove
East 76 18
Midwest 70 25
South 62 33
West 60 35
And those all important independents?
A sharp rise in optimism has occurred among Democrats, who are about three times as likely to approve of the country's course as they were just before Obama's inauguration. Independents, too, are more optimistic, with twice as many feeling positive as in mid-January. Among Republicans, there has not been significant movement in either direction.
We've also speculated on the idea that "being" is easier than "doing" (i.e., looking at Obama's numbers given what he's tried to accomplish in his short term of office makes comparison to other presidents difficult and somewhat misleading.)
Overall, almost two in three Americans, 64 percent, said they have confidence that Obama's economic policies will improve the economy, but that number has dropped since he took office and began to implement his ideas. Before his inauguration, 72 percent were confident that his economic agenda would lead to a recovery. Now, after two months of vigorous debate about his stimulus package and ambitious budget blueprint, confidence has decreased by 13 points among independents and by a similar amount among Republicans.
The most difficult issue for Americans in the poll is the budget and the deficit (i.e. spending money, never easy.)
The findings suggest that the public continues to give Obama considerable latitude as he attempts to jump-start the economy, but public patience may be limited. The coming debate over his budget, where he faces both Democratic and Republican resistance to some of his major priorities, should produce a more definitive first-year judgment on his economic program and his presidency. Clinton's ratings fell his first summer in office as he pushed through a budget and economic plan over solid Republican opposition.
There will certainly be solid Republican opposition, but this isn't 1988 (the magnitude of the problems allow some leeway for the 'change' President.) At the same time, this is the area that political capital is meant to be spent on. Finally, these numbers are the crux of the argument that whatever Obama wants to do, he needs to do it this year.
Obama maintains a strong hand in his dealings with congressional Republicans. The public prefers his approach to that of the Republicans by more than two to one. But the percentage of independents siding with Obama has dropped 12 points, to 50 percent. Many of those independents in the new poll said neither has the upper hand in the economic debate. About a quarter of independents align with the Republicans on this question.
Presidents usually get what they want, regardless of the angst and the complaints, unless you're in the George W. Bush Memorial Sub-Basement in the polls. But the more change you bring, the more Republicans will be unhappy (what's left of them.) Why? Just remember what we are changing from.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo
At this point, the rest of the public remembers, too, and as long as they do, the window of change will remain open.