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. Ann

    I love these polls, they do not state where the telephone surveys were taken, but that it was done by "Opinion Research Corporation."
    Well what does that mean??? The phone calls could have gone to Red States right up the middle of America for all we know!!!??

    January 12, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  2. Eva from Tampa

    President Obama is doing an amazing job. Not only is he an incredible leader, but he is cleaning up a mess of the previous administration. For example, the US was first in in 2000 for number of college graduates-in 2009 we were 10th! Just one ramification of the miserable years under Republican leadership. This doesn't take 1 year to fix and reprioritize–it will take many years. Do we also forget the financial mess a year ago. He provided the leadership and policies that stabilized this economy and our presence in the world. Of course he is doing this while the Republicans to everything in their power to create obstacles-but they have been doing this since FDR!

    January 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. Bert

    Failure due to inexperience.

    January 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. Michael

    Well to be fair all of the things Americans are upset about is the eight years of damage that was done by the Bush administration. And damage like that can take just as long to undue and repair as it took to the Bush administration to cause. Notice Bush never admitted we were in or headed for a recession (even when things began collapsing around him) because he didn't want it associated with his presidency – but he caused it by wasting trillions (TRILLIONS) on a worthless war that gave us nothing but dead bodies.
    And he did nothing to rein in the financial industries even after his administration was warned about the oncoming nightmare.

    The failures are from the last eight years. It's very easy to put Obama's Presidency in perspective. The rest of the world actually respects America again. Plain and simple. They haven't for the last eight years. That's more important than most people can ever comprehend – it's bigger than most can even fathom because they don't deal with the rest of the world. But, without them – we're nothing!

    January 12, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  5. terry,va

    Which half say he is a success? Answer....those that lay around and rely on the government to hand them money Obummie has stole from those that work.

    January 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. stevetall

    Obama is doing a great job. Sorry to hear that half of my fellow Americans are so dim as to think otherwise.

    Fix health care, then let's fix education. Apparently we're not making smarter citizens yet!

    January 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. Malcolm in St Louis

    Probably due more to unrealistic expectations in the face of some serious issues, than the President's ability.

    I am pretty sure the numbers on McCain and Palin, had they won, would be even worse.

    January 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. HJA

    It still amazes me that people expect Obama to wave his hand and make the mess the RepubliNAZIs created just go away. It doe not suprise me one bit that the economy is slowly coming back. As much damage as those clowns did I don't think you will ever see it return to what it was. The RepubliNAZIs did just what big business wanted. Give them a mass of unempolyed that they can force low wages on to increase their profits. Thanks a bunch Regan! I'm sick that I voted for you and your lies.

    January 12, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. Evil Bob

    A plurality of 48% calls him a failure so far, and CNN can only rouse themselves to say there's a split in opinion?

    January 12, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. Dave

    Perhaps it is due to his absurd campaign promises and flawed policies: closing GITMO, saying he would get us out of Iraq, trials of terrorists in NYC, health care shoved down our throats, appointment of Marxists on his committees, failure to be transparent, increase of the national debt and deficits, etc.

    January 12, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. David in Houston

    This really doesn't say much considering the folks who truly think President Obama is a failure are the same ones who thought George W. Bush could do no wrong.

    'Majority Rule' doesn't work in mental institutions...

    January 12, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. eddie

    Obama is too busy with parties and vacations. Then his signing a nuke agreement with Russia and several weeks later Russia had a nuke sub off our east shore and Obama was busy talking about the white police and the put down to care about the whole nation. Then Chavaz cozy up to, and Russia is puting a army/ air force base down there thanks to Chavz. How many vacations and other trips flying all over the world and the costs??? What about the gasses from the planes, yet we are to give up blue collar jobs???? Only 50% don't like Obama????

    January 12, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Dave Goren

    While Obama should not be blamed for the onset of the recession, it is his socialist solution of expanding the government and our enormous
    deficit by adding to it. Socialized medicine will fail in too many ways to
    even imagine, as it adds enormous costs while reducing the level of
    care most Americans will be able to get. Furthermore, the fact backroom wheeling and dealing proved that the bill could not pass on its own merit, and is anything by the "change" promised by this president. Regardless of party, it is "business as usual" and worse. Government has proved time and time again that it is inefficient, so why put our health into their hands? Americans need to make it by themselves, and an administration that encourages voters to expect care from the government should be looking after the affairs of a traditional socialist nation, and not tear down the fundamental values too many Americans hold dear – that of hard work and personal responsibility.

    January 12, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  14. d. v.

    i did not vote for obama. i am glad to see people are admitting to their big mistake.

    January 12, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. truth

    First of all, I am sick of all these polls. I don't recall any president being polled every other week. Secondly, Obama has not dropped this low in the poll. Who are the people that you are polling. My friends and I still favor our president as we know that he is working very hard to secure the economic and security status of this nation. I wish the media would just knock it off. If they continue to divide this nation, they are going to see the true effects of divide and conquor. If it's not Nancy Peloski, it's Harry Reid. Yet no one said anything when Rush Limbaugh called Obama the magic negro, or when Dick Cheney spreads his lies. CNN I see straight through you. Even though you may be the most watched news show now. Eventually, MSNBC is going to catch up and pass you. They are the only news program that have the nerve to report the truth.

    January 12, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  16. Lilarose in Bandon, OR

    Polls should be illegal until the people who participate in these polls come up with better ideas than the President has on how to deal with our nation's problems.

    it is so easy to criticize when one is not responsible for anything.

    January 12, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  17. Reality Check

    Your article fails to break the poll numbers down according to racial lines. Given the fact that 90% of African-Americans approve of Obama's presidency I suspect that a clear majority of Whites consider Obama a failure. The ultra strong support that Obama still gets from African-American's has consistently skewed his poll numbers. Expect a Democratic massacre come November 2010 midterm elections. I predict that the Democrats will loose more seats then in 1994. Most importantly the long predicted "realignment" toward the Democratic party has not come true.

    January 12, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  18. Matt

    I wouldn't call his first year a success or a failure.

    January 12, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  19. The Other Michael in Houston

    I don't recall any other President being under so much scrunity in their first year of office. And I wonder how many of those questioned actually voted for him. And furthermore, I love these "polls". No one asked me what I thought. As a matter of fact, I don't know one single person who has ever recieved a call asking them what they thought of the President. And I know a lot of people. Who are you polling anyway? Maybe we should wait until 2012 to come to a conclusion on how the President is doing.

    January 12, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  20. LouAz

    A telephone poll of 1,021 "people" is simply not significant !
    CNN – You are a lazy bunch of self serving jerks !

    January 12, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    The only failure I see in President Obama is that he failed to follow Bush's failed policies.

    January 12, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  22. guest55

    this is like the people that were saved from the Titanic complaining out the food on the lifeboats. Obama was the prime figure in saving the ecomonies of the world after almost certain catastrophy. He is a great man well respected everywhere, except in the US.

    January 12, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  23. karen

    Wow what a misleading article...once again cnn has these foolish commentaries

    Obama had a 47% approval rating in December now come January it is 51%....so it is actually up.

    CNN GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT and quit trying to influence in the negative.

    January 12, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  24. Dean

    Let me guess it's the Republican half right?

    January 12, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. BLS

    How anyone could have expected the economy to just be magically fixed after a year is beyond me. Every expert in the country said the rough times would last until 2010 and beyond, and that was before Obama was even elected President. Sometimes I swear this country has collective ADD. Even if his policies haven't made things better yet, they sure have kept them from getting worse. It could have been MUCH worse. I certainly appreciate the lower taxes from my paycheck.

    January 12, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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