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. Jammie

    The 16% of people, eho approve of Bush are people likes Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman

    November 10, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  2. ANGIE

    I dont know how Obama could even stand next to that lying War Criminal wish I could of been in his mind to see what he was thinking maybe something like this

    November 10, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  3. democrats /PA

    the house got a rating of 9 percent
    i wonder could this be why
    and why did obama get his buddy from fredie mac in the white house
    hes a crook to must be some thing rhere that he dont want the people to know
    HOW comes cnn doesnt say anything about this ?

    November 10, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  4. November 2012 can't get here soon enough!

    Hey Bored1. Name 1 positive thing that Carter did that Reagan undid. You can't. Why? Carter didn't do anything positive. He gave away the canal, told us we were done as a great nation, that my generation would not have it as good as my parents had, gutted the military, and let our folks sit in Iran for 444 days.

    Reagan restored our hope and our purpose. He restored the nation's pride, rebuilt our military to face multiple threats, and destroyed the Soviet Union. Iran **** in their pants when he was elected and began plans to turn our folks loose. Carter is remembered as an ultra libral nut who discussed nuclear policy with a 13 YEAR OLD for goodness sake. Reagan will always be remembered as the man who won the Cold War.

    November 10, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. Bobbie in Maryland

    Peace to ALL...whatever your political views! Give the man a chance!

    November 10, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  6. Debby

    Are you kidding public expectations he hasn't done anything yet. GMAB

    November 10, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  7. viper

    the house got a rating of 9 percent
    i wonder could this be why
    and why did obama get his buddy from fredie mac in the white house
    hes a crook to must be some thing rhere that he dont want the people to know
    HOW comes cnn doesnt say anything about this ?
    what are u scare about cnn?

    November 10, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  8. Tim

    Keep lower the expectations.

    Don't worry Obamanites, He has the answer to everything.

    November 10, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  9. JAM

    4 priorities –

    1) Fix the economy.
    2) End the occupation of Iraq.
    3) Universal Health Care.
    4) Begin Justice and Congressional investigations leading to the arrest, trial, conviction and imprisonment of Bush and members of his Administration.

    November 10, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  10. Tim


    Bush spent years undoing the damage that Clinton did throwing a party for 8 years and ignoring national defense, holding Europe accountable for their fair share, unregulating business (the mortgage crisis and the internet bubble both started under his admin) and raising taxes.

    Don't cry now that Obama has some tough challenges ahead related to bad people in the world and a failing economy. After all, he is change we can believe in.

    November 10, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  11. mike anthony

    Interesting all the negative polls, comments and wishes for Mr Obama before he even gets in. More interesting all the negative are from the haters who have hated on him for the last 2 years. And also from the politicians of the last 8 years who have put this country into its present state while the most effected people are writing like idiots to these blogs. People Obama did not do this, those people you last elected did. You clowns cant be that dumb or are you??

    November 10, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  12. Somebody Save Us

    How can you have a poll on Obama when the guy has never ran anything in his life. Give Obama a little time before you start criticizing him.
    Obama said he represents change but all his cabinet picks so far were under the Clinton administration. I knew he was just another smoke and mirror politician.

    What a Joke.

    November 10, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  13. mitch

    the only people mad about this is the die-hard christian-right coalition of radical neocons. everyone else is glad we were blessed with barack's service.

    November 10, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  14. Dennis

    DAVE in CA says "THE ELECTION OF A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT WILL BE THE DOWN FALL OF THIS NATION." Uh Dave, are you in favor of an autocratic government? Our democratic government has worked pretty well. If you think a democratic government will be our downfall, then perhaps you should move to some third world country governed by a dictator that values your lack of education.

    November 10, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  15. DAVE IN CA


    November 10, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  16. hometowndemocrat

    I love you guys that refer to Obama as the Messiah or even Christ. Has it occurred to any of you how horrible that makes you sound? Not to mention hateful and uneducated? I don't get how the far right can be so sure that they are the only good Christians out there and then turn around and say blasphemous things like that? There is only one Christ and he is not amused by your comments either. ( I would guess anyway)

    November 10, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  17. Ken in NC


    November 10, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  18. DeVone

    the whole world know what state America is in, President Elect Obama knows the conditions of America God knows the conditions
    so why even take the time to even take a poll the poll was twken
    on Nov 4, 2008 all the press say what they think this man is going
    to do and for those of you who dont like it so be it and
    George W. Bush did what he chose to do with no ones help
    so stop blaming the dimacrates and you cant blame all
    republicans because Bush did what Bush wanted to do

    November 10, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  19. Truth Hurts

    The pessimism and position that America is off track is a direct reflection of the Obama 1 Term Presidency that is about to take place.

    Truth Hurts.

    November 10, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  20. Charles Atlanta

    That's the exact reason we choose Obama. He is young, energetic, honest, open-minded, and intelligent. We all know he inherits 10+ trillions of debt (remember half of that is contributed by another person in this picture), financial crisis and ecnonmy mess, two wars and ruined American reputation. But we know he will take us through the crisis.

    November 10, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |

    I pity those who make fun by calling Obama the Mesiah. It shows lack of biblical insight. On another note, Obama camp is very aware of this pessimistic view that is out there and unlike Bush, Obama is already showing that his administration will be more visable and transparent to the American people.

    You don't have to love him or even like him but you have to give him credit for that.

    November 10, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  22. commonlogic

    No wonder there is pessimism out there.

    Obama has just removed all of his campaign promises on 25 agenda items from his website. All his promises are now reduced to a few very general and vague platitudes. He wants us to forget everything he promised. He smooth talked his way to victory and now he has brought back most of the same old tired political hacks. Change, my foot. I can not believe we elected this smooth talker over the Straight Talker. He lifted the expectations of so many millions of naive voters to win and now he has to quietly lower them to the subfloor. No doubt he'll apply some more smooth talk and get away with it.

    November 10, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  23. Mike, Syracuse NY

    He's been President-elect for less than a week. How can anyone approve or disapprove of the job he's done? What has he done? He's had a few meetings, some photo ops and a tour of the White House. Wow, I'm sure glad we elected him, because that's way different than every other President-elect.

    November 10, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  24. dennis

    Why dont all of you republicant's especially all the far right wing, gun toting, self proclaimed good christians, move to alaska with sarah, and come back in four years with something other than your paranoid scare tatics which didn't work this time. And take Sean Hennity with you

    November 10, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  25. Jim L.

    Dear Somebody Save Us:

    Obama hasn't made any cabinet picks yet, you blithering idiot.

    November 10, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
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