President Obama's Favorability Tops Since First Year in Office

Obama less popular than Reagan, Clinton at the start of their second terms.

President Barack Obama points to someone in the crowd as he arrives to speak about immigration at Del Sol High School, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in Las Vegas.

President Barack Obama points to someone in the crowd as he arrives to speak about immigration Jan. 29 at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas.

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Despite critics labeling President Barack Obama's second inaugural address as too liberal, a majority of Americans approved of his remarks, according to a new poll.

And though Obama's personal popularity is at its highest mark since his first year in office, it's still lower than Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton when they started their second terms, according to an ABC News/Washington Post survey.

Obama's inaugural speech, which highlighted progressive ideals such as immigration reform and gay rights, was approved by 51 percent of Americans but disapproved by just 24 percent, according to the poll. Another 25 percent had no opinion on the speech.

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"The president's inaugural speech, peppered with messages appealing to his core supporters, hit home with broad majorities of Democrats, liberals and nonwhites, as well as majorities of young adults, women, moderates and lower- to middle-income Americans," wrote Greg Holyk, an analyst for Langer Research Associates, in a memo accompanying the poll results.

"Though not majorities, significantly more approve than disapprove of Obama's address among a variety of other groups, including political independents. Whites and 'somewhat' conservatives split more evenly, while 'very' conservatives and Republicans disapprove by wide margins," he wrote.

Overall, 60 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the president, down from his popularity peak of 79 percent just before he took office four years ago, according to the poll. But the 60 percent mark is up 10 points from the summer of 2012.

[READ: Michelle Obama Remains Consistently Popular]

By comparison, Reagan's favorability at the beginning of his second term was 72 percent and Clinton's was 65 percent. But Obama beats President George W. Bush's mark by 5 points.

Obama continues to be a polarizing figure, however, with 92 percent of Democrats giving him favorable marks compared to just 20 percent of Republicans. Sixty percent of independents view him favorable compared with 36 percent who see him unfavorably.

The numbers indicate Obama is working from a tenuous position of political power and achieving early political and legislative success on issues such as gun control or immigration reforms could snowball him in to a more powerful position. But they also indicate that early, high profile setbacks could cripple his ability to effect change throughout the remainder of his term.

The poll surveyed about 1,000 adults on both landlines and cell phones between Jan. 23-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 points.

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