January 12th, 2010
01:32 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: Americans split on success of Obama presidency

Americans are giving Barack Obama a split decision on his first year in office, according to a new national poll.
Americans are giving Barack Obama a split decision on his first year in office, according to a new national poll.

Washington (CNN) - Americans are giving Barack Obama a split decision on his first year in office, according to a new national poll.

Forty-eight percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday say Obama's presidency has been a failure so far, with 47 percent saying Obama has been a success. The poll's January 12 release comes just 8 days before Obama marks one year in the White House.

Full results (PDF)

The survey indicates that Obama's approval rating as president stands at 51 percent, down 3 points from last month, with 48 percent disapproving, up 4 points from December.

"On the plus side for Obama, he remains personally popular and he gets decent ratings on foreign policy and national security issues. That may explain why his overall approval rating is a little higher than the number who say Obama's first year has been a success," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Unfortunately for Obama, domestic issues - led by the economy - are far more important to the public than foreign policy issues, and a majority disapprove of how he is handling every single economic and domestic issue tested."

According to the survey, the economy by far remains issue No. 1 with Americans, with 47 percent saying it is the most important issue facing the country today - up 7 points from last month. Health care, at 15 percent, is the second most important issue with the public, followed by the deficit at 11 percent. Terrorism is tied with the deficit, and up 7 points from last month, most likely do to widespread coverage of the attempted terrorist bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day.

The dominance of domestic issues in importance is most likely a contributing factor to the slight dip in Obama's overall approval rating.

"Only 44 percent approve of how Obama is handling the economy; just 4 in 10 give him a thumbs-up on health care and his approval rating on the federal deficit has plunged to 36 percent. Those are three of the four most important issues on the public's mind today," says Holland. "The president's ratings also suffer from the growing perception that he is too liberal - 46 percent feel that way today, up 10 points from March.

The poll also indicates that 1 in 10 say that Obama has not been liberal enough. But while the public takes issue with Obama on the issues, two-thirds continue to believe that he has the leadership skills and personal characteristics that a president should have, and that may explain why his overall approval is so much higher than his rating on the issues of greatest concern to the public.

The president can also take heart in the fact that his 51 percent approval rating is nearly twice as high as the approval rating for Congress. As the House of Representatives comes back into session Tuesday, only 27 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Congress.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, with 1,021 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report


Filed under: CNN poll • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (298 Responses)
  1. Ron in California

    Yes Obama has had some huge issues...but his judgement is suspect. A pressident is only as good as his advisors. He has surrounded himself with bad choices especially the Czars. I think he will end is first and only term worse than Carter did. To save himself and the country he needs to move back to the center.

    January 12, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  2. Steve

    I am a lifelong Democrat and I feel Obama has failed miserably at solving, or even beginning to solve many of America's serious problems. Contrary to his pre-election rhetoric, Obama has not only failed to get us out of two unwinnable wars, he has wimped out to Republican war mongers and extended our involvement. Global warming has been put off and ignored. The current health care legislation is a watered down gift to the insurance companies. Unless Obama finally shows some guts and radically changes course, he will lose his base (like me) and we will again be led by the
    right wing wackos who got us into this mess.

    January 12, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  3. Mike

    The jury is still out....We are so obsessed in this country with up to the minute polls – it's crazy....let him BE PRESIDENT and then we can come back years from now and figure all this out!

    January 12, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. karl

    Why doesn't CNN.COM include the CBS poll results (at least as NEWS) that show the Obama approval rating as LESS than this? Wouldn't that be fairness in reporting news and give you less an appearance of a bias?

    January 12, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. Retired US Army Officer-Kansas

    Given the absolute partisan atmophere found in Washington today, I must give Obama two thumbs up. It is amazing that he has accomplished anything, with the Republican plank of total opposition to anything that is is proposed or even supported by anyone out side the Republican Party.

    January 12, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. America Rocks

    A lot of those people who are saying "failure" are actually liberals who either think he's too moderate or are upset about liberal policies not getting passed quick enough.

    These people are NEVER going to vote Republican.

    January 12, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  7. Mimbo

    it's only been a year come on! i'm a supporter of the president but even i can't judge whether he's been a "success" or "failure" after only a year in office, silly stuff cnn i expect this kind of thing from fox or msnbc but you could probably do better

    January 12, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  8. New Age Independent

    "a majority disapprove of how he is handling every single economic and domestic issue tested."

    That says it all...

    January 12, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. obama=bankruptcy

    Check out the Bush opinion polls at the end of his first year in office. pretty staggering even with 9/11. Obama is spending his way out of a second term, and worse, putting the country in unprecedented debt. Worse debt than the Bush administration and they were pretty bad.

    January 12, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  10. moderateGuy

    It seems the American people have now graded Obama and are giving him "a solid F plus". You should have limited the poll to black university professors and elected Demok-rats that have graded "president" Oblivious so nicely on your shows.

    January 12, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  11. ryan

    It's unfortunate that more people don't see the federal budget deficit as an important issue facing America today. Congress needs to find a way to fund the programs they propose without borrowing, raising taxes, or printing money. With the economy in its current condition, if a new program can't be paid for, it shouldn't be proposed. The current out of control spending needs to stop so this country can start paying of its debts.

    January 12, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  12. Clifford in New York

    If this is even a question this early into Obama's presidency then he has already been an obvious failure. Absolutely not a surprise though!

    January 12, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  13. chill

    While the right answer is probably incomplete, I think there has to be a good bit of credit given to the president considering where we were as a country when he took office. Our foreign policy has been corrected without all the dire consequences that were projected. He has not given away the store to North Korea or Iran or Cuba, etc. The importance of talking or trying to engage with these rouges is to gain respect from your allies and unaligned nations. Nobody expects that they will be persuaded. But now we get more support around the world.

    Plus pulling us back from the edge economically. I know 15-20% of people are not working or working in the jobs they want, but clearly the fear of a devastating collapse is gone and it's slowly improving. And clearly the stimulus has helped. We've had CHIPS extended and all the other bugaboos of the Bush years gone. We'll soon have healthcare- one of the big three programs- enacted. Energy and education remain, but good groundwork is laid. Financial reform should get done and should get popular support. Even TARP money is being repaid. So on the whole, a good start.

    January 12, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  14. Reggie

    His poll numbers suggest he is the weakest president in recent history. Well, only 3 more years til we can send him out of the Oval Office.

    January 12, 2010 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  15. mk

    I like him but he leaves me feeling blah....I am troubled by the continued excess of wall street execs, rising gas prices, banks that do not heed the calls of the people who continue to suffer and struggle. I expected things to get better and I do not feel they have, nor do I think they will. Sad.

    January 12, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  16. too out there...

    Yes, Obama has been much more polarizing than I thought he'd be.

    I think that his unwillingness to work with republicans (because of the super majority in the Congress) has isolated a large group of Americans that had much higher hopes for his presidency.

    His focus on redistributive ideology rather than personal responsibility has also isolated voters.

    He has also miscalculated and further hurt our economy. Luckly for Obama, his democratic allies are just happy to have a liberal in office–even if it does tear the nation apart.

    January 12, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  17. Gary, Los Angeles

    Where are the jobs he promised? And the troops returning from Iraq in droves? And healthcare for All? And the bi-partisan leadership? Really now?

    January 12, 2010 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  18. Jason Harris

    I think people need to wait until after the midterm elections to determine if Obama's presidency is a failure. Of course people who didn't vote for him or delegitmize his presidency are going say he is failure. As long as unemployment stays at 10% people will say that. This poll indicates that Obama has lost a strong majority of independents. Americans are fickled and people laugh at our democracy because Americans want to throw the president out of office if things aren't better after 1 year. Obama is a victim of his campaign message and people are angry. If he gets healthcare reform and unemployment comes down by 2012, he will get re-elected. Ronald Reagan was in the same situation in 1981-1982.

    January 12, 2010 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  19. Blue

    He took office during a time simliar to F.D. Roosevelt, and I think he is doing a hellva job. I am so proud of what you are doing to save our country.

    January 12, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  20. Louise blackburn

    ENOUGH with this "black-white" issue...I do hope the President does NOT enter the discussion with regards to the Reid comment. Pres Obama is aman with such wonderful qualities. He is a statesman not just a politician. The black community needs to stop expecting him
    to jump on their band wagon every time they feel an insult has been aimed at them. On the one hand they claim they want to be accepted unconditionally ,as part of the world conmmunity ,which is pretty much the way things are...."if you have the ability, you will be successful ", on the other hand they constantly raise the race card.By not jumping on every race issue President Obama is showing the world & all these petty minded individuals what a truly good man he is; one who is comfortable in his own skin.To all others "GET A LIFE"

    January 12, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  21. LIP

    President Obama is doing a great job and is focused on what should have been done by "both parties" a long time ago. They were to busy trying to undermine each other and along comes an opportunity for a majority and which party dominates doesn't matter. What matters is that the opportunity presented itself and Obama is taking advantage of it for as long as it lasts. I hope that he is able to pass as much helpful legislation as possibe.
    A Conservative Republican...

    January 12, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. Vic of New York

    If our Healthcare Bill is less than we wanted. If our economy is doing worse than we wanted. Then let's give the President the tools he needs!

    Everyone complains – but no one gets off their duffs. Get rid of what's left of the useless Republicans! I blame them for forcing the compromises and give aways that have had to be made to get Healthcare done. I blame them for a less than perfect bill.

    I blame the GREEDY Republicans and their handlers at FOX News for screwing up our recovery by opposing every attempt to fix the economy.

    So if your angry – like I am – take that anger out on the Repugnicans who have no concern for our country – but only for being in power.

    January 12, 2010 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. Ron

    Not really surprising that more Americans now see Obama as a failure. He ran a dishonest campaign, under false pretenses. He made like he was a moderate, rather than the true radical leftist that he is. And the mainstream media let him slide on it. Now after his retreat in the face of terrorism (ie closing Gitmo, Mirandizing terrorists, Hasan, etc), his attempts to seize the nation's health care system, his sell out to the UAW in the bailout of the auto industry, Obama has been exposed. Cap and tax, stimulus, cash for clunkers, 10% unemployment.... how can you call this record anything but failure. Americans are belatedly seeing what it is they elected, and they don't like it. Wait until Obama grants amnesty to 12 million illegal aliens (this years project.) Americans don't like radical socialists and that's what they're realizing we put in the White House. And to the LIberals whining about his falling numbers: its only going to get worse! So buckle up for the downhill!!! Hope and Change 2010= GOP resurgence.

    January 12, 2010 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12