November 10th, 2008
04:00 PM ET
14 years ago

Poll: Deep public pessimism confronts incoming administration

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Pat

    meck November 10th, 2008 5:25 pm ET


    November 10, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  2. A daunting task

    You want to blame someone? All you need is a mirror and your continuing belief in the 2 party system. We need change. Not Obama change, real change. The polititian that tells you that you there is no money left, that you have to cut back, sacrifice and live within your means is the one you should trust.
    BTW your house is worth only what someone else will pay for it.

    November 10, 2008 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  3. Penn Voter

    Obama will lie to us just like the rest of the idiots in Washington.

    November 10, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  4. clyde

    we are called soliders we protect your freedom which you obviously dont care about .we are from all over just care about keepin up with the neighbors.whats wrong with the US i feel like i am in russia.ooh thats right we voted for socialism

    November 10, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  5. malclave

    "He is young, energetic, honest, open-minded, and intelligent."

    Young and energetic, yes.
    Intelligent, almost certainly.

    Honest and open-minded? Doubtful, but I guess everything that's been released about him to date could be wrong.

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

    Americans want job security. They don't want to be "sold out."

    November 10, 2008 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  7. Greg Hodges

    There is no doubt that Barack Obama is inheriting one hell of a mess after 8 years of Bush/ Cheney; and it will probably take the better part of the next 4 years to get the U.S. back to where it was under Clinton. If the American public stays with him in the major battles/showdowns with the G.O.P.; he just might transform the U.S. into the kinder/gentler nation everyone dreams of. The simple fact of the matter is lobbyists and other entrenched powers in Washington are going to fight reform and change every step of the way. If Congress sees the public standing by their President;anything is possible. If not, it will be VERY difficult for ANY one person to fight such bureaucracy. The fight is not over; it has just entered a new phase!

    November 10, 2008 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  8. sandee in Portland

    I don't understand all these bloggers who say the public is already scared of Obama. His approval rating for a President Elect is higher than at any other time of transition. To me, that means that the public IS NOT scared of Obama, just those die hard, far right wing neocons who constantly spew hatred and racism and call themselves christians.

    November 10, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  9. Vic

    I am fully behind President Obama – he will be a great preident.
    And to all the naysayers I say, "what can YOU do better?"
    These talking head republican spokespersons are making fools of themselves yet again..and Fox News is leading the pack.

    November 10, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  10. Lori

    President-elect Obama has done more for this country and making the American people and the world optimistic in the last few days since he became Pres-elect, than President Bush has done in the past 8 years. I cannot wait for Obama to become President. I don't expect things to change overnight (as the GOP will be pressuring him) but I know he will make some good changes and get us back on track.

    Who are the ones that gave Bush a positive approval rating? They must be some of the backward rednecks down South who think anything but a bi-racial man in office is good. Thank God the rest of the country voted for the better candidate last Tuesday.

    November 10, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  11. Archie H.

    Really ;what has he done except grin a lot and throw a few lofty phrases about?

    November 10, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  12. 30-m-PA-Democrat-voted McCain

    I feel even more pessamistic about the new administration. Why many Americans are so dumb beats me.

    November 10, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  13. Credit Card Republicans

    He has that far away look in this photo,maybe he can see china on the horizon.

    November 10, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  14. Sarah Palin--Next President

    Even if Obama lasts 8 years (highly unlikely), Sarah will only be 52 and ready to take over. If Obama is out in 4, Sarah will only be 46.

    And you know what, she's so much more accomplished than her critics-how many of you out there have been a Mayor, Governor with the highest approval rating in the U.S., Member Alaskan Energy and Conservation Board, Candidate for VP-all by the age of 44 and all while raising 5 kids? Guess I better not wait for an answer-I'll be old and gray.

    November 10, 2008 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  15. lbell

    CAN WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? It's time for the bickering to stop! Whether you voted for Barack or not, this is OUR country. We are to uphold whomever is elected to office. We may not agree with Barack on everything, however let's be supportive. As he stated all along: "This is The UNITED States of America"! There is too much division in this country! We dont have to stay in Iraq for war because we are at war with one another! We need to realize that Obama's whole campaign was about change, but we must look a little deeper at the word change. We all must make an effort to change some things (our view of some things, attitude, spending, etc) so that our nation may become united once again. There is too much hatred in this country over nothing. I feel that Obama will do a great job, keeping in mind that he is human just like you and I. Let's not talk down about our president -elect so people from other countries can see how divided we are. Let's really be an example for those countries that look up to us. Let's all be optimistic and hopeful. It takes too much energy to be negative.

    Peace, Blessings, and Love!

    November 10, 2008 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  16. commish in mich

    Bush alone is not responsible for the deregulation, the incompetience, the cut taxes and increased spending (borrow and spend), failure to enforce the regulations in place and just plain greed from which this great nation may never recover. The idiots that voted for him must also be held accountable including the ones here tonight that would continue his policies. Are those people mean, evil people or just plain stupid?

    November 10, 2008 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  17. Roger

    If President Bush is rated as these polls indicate then any one from the opposition party could have won this 2008 election. Maybe even Keith Obermann The accountabity now shifts to
    our Congress. If they do not support the new president then in two years vote them out because their poll ratings have been consisently lower than the President.

    November 11, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
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