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Brownstein: Obama Gaining Cred with Public

National Journal's Ronald Brownstein reports on a new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, indicating that President Obama's approval rating rose to 51 percent, up 7 from December -- "Obama's highest approval rating in the Heartland Monitor since the survey taken immediately after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May." Brownstein notes further:

...Obama's support is strengthening but hardly yet secure, and the country remains divided closely enough on his performance and agenda to virtually ensure a competitive general election against the Republican nominee. Indeed, just 44 percent of registered voters surveyed said they intend to vote for the president's reelection, while 49 percent said they will likely or definitely vote for someone else. A series of economic measures also shows that Obama is continuing to receive equivocal ratings, especially from whites.

But Brownstein sees considerable cause for White House optimism: "...The new poll found his approval rating rising by 11 percentage points among independents; 8 among nonwhites; 6 among all whites; 7 among both college-educated white men and women; and 9 among the so-called waitress moms--white women without a college degree. Only among noncollege-educated white men did Obama remain stuck in neutral with virtually no gain from December."

Brownstein adds that the President's approval rating "is approaching his actual share of the 2008 vote overall and among key voting blocs, including whites, Independents, white women. His current numbers "have surpassed his 2008 vote among Hispanics (72 percent versus 67 percent) and college-educated white men (44 percent versus 42 percent)." However, he is still "well below" his '08 percentages with younger whites and white Independents.

The President's approval ratings appear to be linked to "expanding optimism about the economy," with 60 percent of Americans now saying they expect improvement over the next year, compared to 50 percent in October. A total of 56 percent now say that President Obama's policies are moving the country in the right direction (45 percent) or that America is "significantly better off" (11 percent).

Brownstein notes that "Those numbers have remained remarkably stable through Obama's presidency, and they suggest that through all the turbulence of the times, a majority of Americans has never entirely lost faith in him." He concludes, "Judging by these latest survey results, the economy is slowly giving the president more ammunition to argue that such faith was not misplaced."