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. dorie

    The truth is – all Americans are responsible for the current economic situation. We're greedy and care about noone but ourselves. It's always been "give me more, give me more, I'll pay for it later!!" It was bound to catch up sooner or later!!

    Stop crying about paying higher taxes – just maybe, the extra tax $$ will go to help feed a hungry child or provide them healthcare that alot of us take for granted!! Think about someone other than yourself for once!!

    Obama rules!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 10, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  2. witch

    So many of you sound so stupid and bitter. I will stand tall and tell you I told you so when things get better. For a long time this country has been slipping and so many of us had lost hope. Now we have hope back. Most of us know it won't be easy but we will turn this country around. Why don't you give him a chance? Or are you just going to sit back and gripe about it? I have hope and until it is taken away I will believe. Just like some many others will. Peace.....................

    November 10, 2008 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  3. Sherri

    America is in good hands. I am optimistic about the future, as are all of the millions who changed our country on November 4, by standing up and saying No More to the status quo. Thank God for Barack Obama. Things are not going well...but with hard work by each one of us they soon will be.

    November 10, 2008 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  4. Red, Red WHINE!!

    Tim November 10th, 2008 5:59 pm ET

    Well, he certainly failed to do a good job then, now didn't he?

    If that's how incompetent Bush is: taking something that is going great (Clinton) and fixing it by making it the worse conditions since the great depression (horrid economy) AND WWII (Two new wars, and illegal at that) combined...then his newly crowned "Worse President Ever" title is well deserved.

    November 10, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  5. paul (staunch Moderate)

    retired patriot:

    A repeat of the Clinton years?? The US had a budget surplus. We were at peace throughout the world. Most people I know were much better off financially. I'll definitely take a repeat of all that!

    November 10, 2008 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  6. Jaye

    It's hard not to be pessimistic right now, but, we must stay positive and do all we can to help Senator Obama lead our country.
    We can start by boycotting Fox News.

    November 10, 2008 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  7. Nancy, MI

    The public's morale is low because we've had a very inexperienced leader for eight years. Bush is also very selfish. He promoted himself as a uniter, but was in fact a divider. He bragged four years ago that he had a mandate, but he didnt'. He is clearly the WORST PRESIDENT we've ever had. He will never live that down, he's branded and so is the Republican Party.

    Now they're regrouping to come up with more lies because the last ones didn't work.

    Americans were smarter on November 4th and we'll be even smarter in four years. We will not be fooled or moved.

    Obama/Biden– Congratulations

    November 10, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |

    Probably this doesn't fit here but....CNN is saying our present goverment has "LOANED" .... 2 TRILLION dollars and the Federal
    Reserve refuses to say where it has gone and to whom...

    This is supposed to be recent history...

    Thank God for the election... President Elect Obama please
    jump on this.... Speak to it... then go back to settling on your staff and

    Bush and the Federal Reserve must be held accountable if this is true...

    Yup its that old(69yrs)-retired-white guy from Ma. Former Republican

    BRUCE ........ Feeling younger every day !!!!!!

    November 10, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  9. Franky

    I don't think ain't that bad. You don't believe me, just tell John Quincy Adams or Chester A. Arthur. But I tell you this for sure...I sure as heck wouldn't mess with "Old Hickory" himself, that I guarantee you, LOL!!

    November 10, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  10. Barbara, IL

    Dear Barack,

    Wash your hands after you shake Bush's hand. I don't want his dictatorial germs on my next president.

    November 10, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  11. Rachel, FL

    Bush is clueless and he's probably thinking about the next round of golf he can play.

    I'm glad it's a new day.

    November 10, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  12. Smarts

    January 20th is a long, long ways away. Much can happen between now and then. Lets give him a chance and see what happens after 01/20.

    November 10, 2008 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  13. Stephanie, MA

    Their ties match, but thank God their minds are different.


    November 10, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Well, considering Obama has no plans to at least cut back on deficit spending is a sign we are big trouble.

    November 10, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  15. Paula, MN

    You're looking at a Buchanon and our future president. One will go down in the history books as one of the worst presidents ever, and the other will try and be the best president he can be. Whether or not he'll be a great president, time will tell.

    November 10, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  16. maurice

    hey about after this little talk and tour we go over to the library and have a stiff drink? hell ya now your talking barry......i can call you barry cant i? lol just a bit of humor

    November 10, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  17. Marie

    Why do Obama supporters feel the need to state their race when talking about themselves. It's very disturbing and very racists. Many people supported Obama, we don't need to know that you are white, black or green. Please stop it!

    November 10, 2008 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  18. Dan, TX

    I can't read too many of these comments without feeling a little sick. There are so many sick, sick people, on both sides. May the republican and democratic parties be destroyed and replaced by parties that represent the American people. Most you people are clearly borderline insane.

    November 10, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  19. Shannon

    Dave in Atlanta, did you say honest when talking about Obama, do the words public financing mean anything to you, you know the pledge he took to take public financing, and the pledge he broke. Dave do you remember when he was running in the primary, and he didn't support FISA, but as soon as he got the nomination, he stabbed his supporters in the back and voted for it. No true Democrat supports spying on his fellow citizens. Please don't rewrite history!

    November 10, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  20. ACFX

    It's easy. Just print more money, bail every company out and everything will be solved and we will prosper.

    November 10, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  21. amy

    76% disapprove of Bush, how predictable. As usual most of 1200+ adults wer probably Democrats, can' t believe CNN anymore. Their polls were sooooooooo wrong during election. Just check the Pew research media center. Bush bashing never let up from the day he took office. Now, get ready for a Hussein OBAMA bashing. ......bring it on.

    November 10, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  22. Madison Gibbons

    George Bush you are a carin man! And Barack olboma u are going to b a wonderful president!

    Madison Gibbons

    November 10, 2008 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  23. Frank from Peterborough

    Times are tough and it will take some firm resolve and a steady hand from the administration to turn things around both domestically and abroad.

    Obama has both the intellect and the staff to accomplish a turn around but it will take time and people have to be both patient and supportive. Hopefully the hate and fear mongers like Limbaugh, Hannity and O'Rielly will have enough intelligence to act grown up in America's time of need. But I wouldn't bet the farm on the latter.

    November 10, 2008 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  24. Polly

    I'm afraid Obama wants to be a people-pleaser when someone needs to step up to the plate and tell the American people exactly what we need to do in order to become financially independant. I don't see how Obama is going to begin the process of getting us out of debt when he's wanting to give the American people money. Too many people are already taking advantage of government money. We need a tough President to force cut-backs, so only the people who are sick and absolutely need the money, get charitable "aid"- not a lifestyle.

    November 10, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  25. BeefyDaddy

    Wow...there sure are a lot of bitter Republicans out there!

    Still spreading the lies too I see.

    What a shame. Keep spitting venom while the rest of the country tries to work together to get this great country back on track after 8 years of negligence, stupidity, failed economic policies and mismanagement.

    Remember we had the largest surplus ever before Bush. We now have the largest deficit. This is not a coincidence. You cannot blame Carter and Clinton for Bush's neocon mistakes.

    Obama is the real deal. He is a true leader. A man for the times. Intelligent. Thoughtful. Patient. Well read. Well spoken. He appreciates alternate perspectives. What a refreshing change.

    I know Hannity and Limbaugh tell you to keep hating, but perhaps you should try to make things better instead of perpetuating the negativity.

    The never-say-die GOP would rather our country fail so that they can blame a Democrat, than have propserity under Obama.

    November 10, 2008 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
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