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. RSweeney

    Without the near lockstep support of media and the slanting of reports, through near fanclubs like CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Obama's favorable rating would be confined to the hard core left.

    I don't blame Obama, I blame CNN and the monoculture of journalism.

    Your fanclub seems to drawing fewer viewers these days, care to buy a clue?

    January 12, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  2. charles

    Good heavens! The man has had less than one year in office, and already he has turned around one of the worst economic disasters in history, and he's a "failure"?
    His bailout of GM alone saved over a million jobs in the auto and auto parts businesses in America.
    The works programs are hiring thousands and we are having much overdue infrastructure improvements around the country.
    He has provided the leadership for the beginning of healthcare for people in the US.
    He has guided the country in reducing taxes to the poor and middle class (your paycheck reflects the change, even if you don't recognize it).
    He focused the country on working to get out of the bad economy, instead of spending our energy prosecuting Bush and Cheney and their minions.
    He has dramatically improved our image with our allies.
    How can all of this be a failure?
    How can ONE year of a four year term, turning around the worst economy and world world mood in our lives, be a failure?
    Honestly. I think he has done wonderful things and has the potential of being a great President... if he can get these pesky journalists to stop diverting attention from the REAL ISSUES, and into petty popularity contests....anybody listening CNN...???

    January 12, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Becker

    No doubt about it Obama is a great guy with a nice family and God bless him as our President. But as far as his performance as a President he is terrible. He has focused on healthcare when we need jobs and emboldened our enemies with his foriegn policy. He is seen as weak and inexperienced but most.

    January 12, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. phil

    Gee! The lede says "failure" and the article says' "split". Is that what's being taught these days.

    January 12, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  5. Gary

    I curious why they didn't include political affiliation as on of the questions. With todays climate I would think that would weigh heavily on poll results.

    January 12, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  6. dude

    He's the best we've had in a long time.

    January 12, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. Robert

    sounds like the Republican half who must have been in a coma the last 8 years before Obama. Obama is at least trying despite the No party fighting him every inch. Oh yea, Obama has not started any wars against some country that did NOTHING to us. Think I will keep him instead of another for the rich Republican.

    January 12, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. Marcus Greensboro, NC

    It hasn't been a year, and he has to fight every issue because we have people that need to be retired opposing everything. Term limits in Congress please!!!! I think it is very irresponsible to ask about failure when he hasn't even been President for half of his term. I think he has done a good job with all of the opposition he has received from both sides of the aisle. People need to stop thinking everything is going to happen next week, because that is not reality. It takes people longer than he has been in office to get out of debt, finish college, or find a job so I am lost on why the question was asked at all.

    January 12, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    Obama fan club whine list:
    - they didn't call me personally so the poll is wrong
    - I have a cell phone (which ARE polled BTW)
    - it is racism
    - it is Bush's fault somehow
    - it is space aliens (why not)

    January 12, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  10. ric

    Sooooooooooo Libs, how is all that " Hope and Change " workin out for ya!!?? LMAO! Im happy i didnt vote for this failure and can sit back and smile and say " i told ya all so . "

    January 12, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  11. Obama Victim

    so half the country doesn't like The Messiah......and the other half are idiots........seems about right

    January 12, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. Richard - Missouri

    I submit Barack Obama's poll numbers are actually lower than what has been indicated. If it were not for the folks who are die-hard Dems, who would continue to back the President no matter how badly he has screwed-up, his numbers would be lower. As is always the case, there are those 'sheeple' who tow the party line, right, wrong or indifferent. Such people have little or no independent thought processes, and simply rubber-stamp all that Dems do, regardless of how horrendous it might be for the country. These folks are clearly 'drinking the Kool-Aid', even when it's poisoning them, and those all around them. I certainly hope that there are not truly anywhere near 47% who are so blind that they truly feel Obama has done a good job. He is every bit as much a liberal and a novice as everyone said he is, who has not done squat since being in office. I submit he has done tremendous damage, far worse than any Republican, including George Bush (who was an idiot). If nothing else, we are being led down the road to socialism and financial ruin, but that is the plan. And while many of the followers of libs like Obama would deny they want such, they will still back their guy, regardless of the evidence that we are all going to get hosed. Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Hoyer, etc., all need to go, or the country is doomed. This is not just nonsense talk or rhetoric; it's factual. If they continue, the US is done for – period. And by the time the 'sheeple' figure it out, it will be too late.

    January 12, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  13. Ryan

    "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."

    But the mainstream media keeps telling me that people want all of the programs Obama is pushing for? Can we finally start being honest? America voted in Obama as something "different".....they did not vote him in to install far leftist ideology. Obama the candidate and Obama the president are two completely....almost polar opposite individuals. This is the narrative for the Obama presidency. This is the narrative that the mainstream media chooses to ignore. And I voted for Obama.

    (also note that only 15% thought healthcare was a top issue in this country. So why are we so focused on it again?)

    January 12, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  14. Aubrey

    Do people really expect so much damage to be repaired in a year, especially when there are Congressmen and women who are hellbent on stopping the President's every move? The two options of "success" and "failure" are much too black and white at this point. If we all truly care about our country, we must support our President in the best ways we can, without rushing to categorize him as either. It's not as if he can wave a magic wand and change things as he sees fit.

    January 12, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. Donkey Party

    It's too bad so many Americans are too stupid and lazy to see that while one party in Washington tries to agressively help the US citizen, the other party prides itself on obstructing anything that benefits US citezens. Some Senators (like McCain) even proudly profess in their re-election campaign that he wants to get re-elected so he can "stand in President Obama's way" everyday. And as usual he fails to mention his ideas and policies. So, his campaign amounts to "vote for me, and I'll make sure I do nothing but obstruct progress". What a disgrace.

    January 12, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. scott whitehill

    .... lol.... you had to take a POLL to find that out??? duh...

    January 12, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. once upon a horse

    Face it folks...I think we need to put a Republican in power so that they can cut taxes on the wealthy, cause trickle down economics, fund more wars and cut programs that try to help the average man get back on his feet. I mean that really worked well the previous eight years didn't it?

    January 12, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  18. Michael from Ventura

    Americans don't seem to realize that it takes more than a year to fix a decade of error. Keep going Mr. President! I have faith in you!

    January 12, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  19. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    It's hard to understand how Obama, and the Democrats as a whole, so thoroughly misjudged the character of the American people. Did he, and they, really think that a wholesale repudiation of Bush and the neo-cons really meant that Americans would enthusiastically embrace European-style soft-socialism?

    Obama has no one to blame but himself for his continuing slide from hero to bum. His negligible experience in politics seems to led him into the absurd misapprehension that Chicago could stand as a scale-model of the nation, that the people of the vast spaces between American cities would happily accept domestic policies appropriate, at best, only to those cities.

    Obama has had a year to learn that Chicago is not synonymous with the US, that not all the world's a city. If he has the courage necessary in a President, he'll acknowledge his mistakes, widen the scope of his understanding to encompass not just urban America but all America, and abandon his attempts to treat us all as if we were all regimented into city blocks.

    January 12, 2010 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  20. thersa

    It's going to take more than a year to clean up all the mess Bush left behind. If we go back to Republican control of Congress you can forget about it ever happening.

    January 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  21. Dems Nuts

    Half say Obama's a failure. The other half say he's a joke.

    January 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  22. Steven

    Like so many, I welcomed President Obama's election. I began walking across America to find out what most people thought, along the coastal regions but beyond. I found myself siding with most I spoke with between Malibu, California and Washington, D.C.

    I feel President Obama wishes to do well for the nation. I believe him to be a true intellectual. Setting aside both praise and scorn, I would like to consider something more important.

    This nation has been blessed with a great many wonderful leaders - and some of questionable ability. Most of them fall between the canyon that lies between.

    It is my own belief this President has failed in one most important area. Since he has taken office, he has failed to find a dream: a vision that can be presented to both pull us together and drive us forward - perhaps even, lead the world to a better place.

    George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan each were able to present some dream that caused us to feel we were whole Americans as opposed to Sectional Citizens.

    I stand with many who would have him share our dream. This dream is posted online in some detail. We believe it will accomplish all those things currently being tossed about the polictical arena as if we were still in election mode. It is time to move on.

    The media has, as much as any other section of those who were charged with leading this nation forward, failed to stand true to their office. It is not enough to provide time or space to each individual who has some statement to make. Not enough to present each and every side. The role of moderator should be a balanced but not be a passive one.

    January 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  23. Matt

    How can he be popular for his foreign policy? Not only has he expanded the war in Afghanistan and continued to fight in Iraq, but he has been hostile towards Iran and North Korea, sending more troops to Pakistan, and now wants to send troops to Yemen. If you don't want terrorists to attack our nation, stop keeping troops in their country! We would never stand for China or Russia to maintain military bases all over our country, so why have we maintained bases in the Middle East for so many decades? I believe we have bases in something like 130 countries. Bring them home, keep them home. It's no coincidence there was a jump in suicide bombers in Iraq and Pakistan since we began sticking our nose in their business. If we haven't found Usama bin Laden yet, we're probably not going to. So your best bet is to bring everyone home and stop making these other countries angry. Right now we're only providing encouragement for future generations to continue attacks against the U.S.

    January 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. Shirley In California

    Considering the mess he INHERITED, I think will all things considered he's doing a good job. I do think however, he needs to focus more on the economy and getting people back to work. Once that has been achieved – things will improve all around.

    January 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. Ster

    I want whatever the approvers are smoking. Must be great stuff!

    January 12, 2010 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
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