November 10th, 2008
04:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Poll: Deep public pessimism confronts incoming administration

Obama and Bush met at the White house Monday.

Obama and Bush met at the White house Monday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As President-elect Obama visits the White House, a new national poll illustrates the daunting challenges he faces next year.

Only 16 percent of those questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say things are going well in the country today. That's an all-time low. Eighty-three percent say things are going badly, which is an all-time high.

Watch: The public's mood is grim

"The challenge Obama faces has never been greater. No president has ever come to office during a time when the public's mood has been this low. In the 34 years that this question has been asked, the number who say things are going well has never fallen below 20 percent," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The 83 percent saying things are going badly is "more than in 1992, when the first President Bush was ousted because of the economy, stupid. That's more than in 1980, when President Carter got fired after the malaise crisis. That's more than in 1975, after Watergate and the Nixon pardon," says CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

So far, Obama seems to be meeting the public's high expectations. Two-thirds of all Americans have a positive view of what Barack Obama has done since he was elected president and three-quarters think that Obama will do a good job as president.

"Obama has the support of virtually every African-American in the poll, but he also gets high marks from a solid majority of whites," says Holland.

But that optimism doesn't hide what appears to be concern that most people don't have a clear idea of what Obama would do to improve the economy. Six in ten say that they don't clearly know what Obama would do to improve the economic situation.

The all-time low on the public's mood may have something to do with another finding in the poll, that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the most unpopular president in the six decades since presidential approval ratings were first measured.

Seventy-six percent of those questioned in the survey released Monday disapprove of how George W. Bush is handling his job as president. That's an all-time high in CNN polling, or in Gallup polling dating back to World War II.

"No other president's disapproval rating has gone higher than 70 percent. Bush has managed to do that three times so far this year," said Holland. "That means that Bush is now more unpopular than Richard Nixon was when he resigned from office during Watergate with a 66 percent disapproval rating."

Prior to President Bush, the record holder for presidential disapproval was Harry Truman, with a 67 percent disapproval rating in January of 1952, his last full year in office.

As Obama visits the White House, 57 percent of those questioned think the transfer of presidential power will be relatively easy and free from tension, with 39 percent saying the transition will be difficult.

"A majority say that the transition from Bush to Obama will go smoothly, although nearly one in four predict a lot of tension between Bush aides and Obama aides in the next few weeks. That sentiment is highest among Democrats, but even among them, a majority believes that the transition will be relatively easy," Holland said.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday with 1,246 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. Scott NYC Independent

    Well 8 years ago I warned everyone I know that Bush would bring us to ruin. I paid off my credit cards and purchased all my big ticket items in cash. Now if I don't lose my job I'll be fine. The rich do well with republicans and the not rich all suffer. It never fails.

    November 10, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. no fear

    and let us all remember that it is not the responsibility of one person, nor one administration to resolve our problems. it takes the collective effort of all. energy flows where attention goes and so lets be more discerning about the energy footprint we're making in our society. peace.

    as an aside: I recently read ML King's speech in 1967 on opposing the Vietnam War. a speech still very much relevant to the issues we face today.

    LEave a trail of light. . . .

    November 10, 2008 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  3. Scott NYC Independent

    Rick – time are so bad now that there is much else anyone else can do to make it worst. Have you seen the unemployment rate; have you seen the national debt; have you seen the crime rates increasing across the country; how about your utility bills. If things got worst it would be DEPRESSION II

    November 10, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. JJ


    Yes, because 16% of the United States population lives in Alaska...

    November 10, 2008 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  5. boered1

    Looks like you have taken all the lies to heart.. too bad I was hopeful for an adult conversation this presidental term. But then I thought that McCain would run an adult campaign alsoi, guess I just cannot fathom the stupidity and childishness of the radical right.

    We are not scared because Barack hussain Obama is taking charge, we are scared that no matter how good he is or how hard he tries that between idiots like you and the depth of the mess you folks put us in even President Obama will not be able to sort it out fast enough and in four years you will all point out that he did not fix all the problems you left him and therefore he should not get reelected and instead another member of the radical religious right will get elected and will destroy all the positive moves that Obama was able to make. Much like what happened after Reagan took over from Carter. As I often say God spare us from religious fools and the plain stupid!

    November 10, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  6. Hopeful for Tomorrow

    @NYER - You don't even read articles anymore, do you? Oh, and by the way, if a transexual wants to protect you by joining the US Army, why would you object to them trying to protect your freedom?

    November 10, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  7. Scott NYC Independent

    no fear – I agree with you it is not the sole responsibility of one person but you know what – Bush was the RAT at the head of the pack.

    November 10, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  8. Truth Hurts

    Wow the Hype Machine continues forward.

    "Two-thirds of all Americans have a positive view of what Barack Obama has done since he was elected president"

    ??? What has he done? zip nada nothing!!!!

    Barrack "Smokey" OBama will have a knee jerk reaction he has to the first crisis he has, the honeymoon will end, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth will begin, and so will the new presidential election season.

    All of which should be by the end of January, 2009!

    Bye Bye Lame Duck Barack "Change" Obama, you tried, though.

    Truth Hurts

    November 10, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  9. Barbara in NC

    NYer – you have nothing but negative crap to post on ALL blogs. Why don't you just move out of the country and let the rest of us clean up this mess and enjoy the country we love.

    November 10, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  10. Obama Victim

    no problem..............he is, after all.................."The Messiah"

    November 10, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  11. ARB


    November 10, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. Truth Hurts

    The deep pessimism comes from real Americans who are not fooled by the Democratic Rhetoric about "Change"

    We have heard this all before. Change Schmange.

    Obama is going to rob us blind with taxes of all sorts.

    Truth Hurts.

    November 10, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  13. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    November 10, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  14. Great Day

    I love Barack, he will do well.

    Bush has taken enough of a beating. He will have to live with the memory of his administration for the rest of his life. That's enough for me.

    November 10, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  15. guzzler

    November 10th, 2008 5:06 pm ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    While people may disagree, the best thing that happened to bring us towards energy independence is high gas prices.

    OPEC knows this, and will do everything in it's power to keep prices low. Now, we're back down. They know that $5/gal is the magic number when solar/electric/hydrogen technologies are equal in cost to gas. They need to keep us addicted. And complain as you may, now that gas is $1.95(in my town), Americans will probably go back to usual and want Hummers. the auto industry will comply, and in 5 years we'll have US gas guzzlers back, and Japan will have working all-electric vehicles that go 100miles per charge and charge in 2 hours. Or, hydrogen/electric hybrids that use solar to split water and can go 500 miles on charge/tank of H2.

    We're losing out in the auto industry because there is no vision…no innovation, and no willingness to take risks…

    Someone told me that it is a misperception to call the auto makers, Car Companies. They are PENSION companies. Most of their expense and profits go to pay pensions, not to create and innovate. A bailout will go to pensions, not to making cars or better products.

    November 10, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  16. To CNN:


    Will you take a walk back in history and show us all the pictures of all the first couples in transition. That will be nice to see. Go back as far as you can.

    November 10, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  17. Barbara in NC

    JJ – 680,000 is NOT 16% of the population. Re-check your math please.

    November 10, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. Chambers, VT

    The 16% are Bush's relatives all over the world, including the Saudi-Americans.

    November 10, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  19. Jim in Texas

    No one should worry the new Christ Obama will fix everything for everyone........his promises are Gold.

    November 10, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. The Dog

    According to the article, "Six in ten say that they don't clearly know what Obama would do to improve the economic situation. "

    That's not surprising. We all know that raising taxes in a recession is a horrible idea. And that is pretty much all he's got. If jobs are going overseas in part because the tax burden on US businesses is too high, how is raising the corporate income tax supposed to reverse this trend?

    November 10, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  21. Kim

    You should have seen the 35,000 plus people here in Tulsa over the weekend for the gun show and all the anti-Obama bumper stickers on their cars, let alone the interviews in the Sunday Tulsa World with the gun show patrons who are convinced Obama will take away their right to bear arms. And the quote from one individual about how
    "Southern boys won't let that happen". How frightening is this. Yep folks, fear mongering and race baiting is alive and well and isn't it sad???!!!!

    November 10, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  22. Turn Texas BLUE

    That is amazing to me, Mr. BUSH get the WORST rating in history and he still managed to never get IMPEACHED!!! no more Bush!!

    Obama!!!! take your stand

    November 10, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  23. JJ


    Yes, I know. That was meant as a sarcastic comment to someone else who had said the 16% was must have been Alaska. Check a few posts before my own.

    November 10, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  24. CanIcallyouJoe

    President-elect Obama:

    I would help public opinion very much if you would please repeal the following unconstitutional Bush practices:

    -The Bush Doctrine (I felt this needed it's own space...)

    -right to detain a citizen without disclosing charges
    -denial of posse comitatus
    -denial of habeas corpus
    -secret prisons here and abroad
    -domestic wire-tapping (or at least don't freaking tell us about it)

    If we at least knew the government wasn't picking through our lives every minute of the day, perhaps one would be a little more patriotic or optimistic about where this country is going....

    "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

    Hermann Goering,
    Nuremberg Trials

    November 10, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  25. Red, Red WHINE!!

    The deep pessimism comes from those Americans who still approve of Bush and are afraid of "Change" (ironic that the percentage of the two are so close, isn't it?)

    They have heard this all before. Change is progress.

    Obama is going to be better then Bush, and they hate it!

    Truth Hurts.

    November 10, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
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