Obama's Poll Numbers Remain Strong, But Auto Bailout Could Be a Problem

When does the public start to tag the president with his auto bailout?

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

President Obama got more good news in various polls today, with some troubling signs sprinkled in.

The president remains strong in the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with 66 percent approving of his job performance (down marginally from 68 percent in February); 60 percent approve of his handling of the economy, which is the same as last month.

Rasmussen's daily tracking "Approval Index" (the number of people who strongly approve less the number of people who strongly disapprove) has Obama at +11, the highest it has been since the first week of March.

Below the top-line, the WashPo-ABC poll has some other interesting nuggets: The percentage of people who say that they approve of the federal government's response to the economic situation is at 49 percent, up from 23 percent in December (the disapproval number is 48 percent, down from 72 percent in December). Those saying that the nation's economy is getting better now number 27 percent (36 say getting worse), up from 6 percent (62 percent getting worse) the day before Obama was sworn in, and 14 percent (48 percent getting worse) as recently as the Ides of March.

All pretty good figures, prompting Matthew Yglesias to wonder about the disconnect between Washington and the nation:

With there seeming to be more Senate Democrats who are wary of Barack Obama's agenda than there are Senate Republicans wary of opposing it, Washington often takes on the feel of a town with a president whose honeymoon is over. But every time a poll comes out, you see that it's not true.

He's right. That said, there are a couple of points of possible concern: According to the Post, the public favors increasing spending by a 49-47 percent, down from 51-44 from mid-January. It doesn't say how pressing an issue that is for the public, but if those lines cross it could prove problematic for the administration. (I wonder if there is a relationship between increased optimism about the economy and decreased interest in new federal spending—if you think things are improving, you're less likely to want to expand the deficit.)

Also, those who say they are confident that Obama's economic program will improve the economy outnumber those who don't by a margin of 64 percent to 35 percent, but that gap has narrowed from 72-28 in mid-January. And drilling down, while 23 percent expressed strong confidence in both polls, the net movement was from people expressing fair confidence (41 percent now, 48 percent then) to people expressing no confidence (17 percent then, 11 percent now).

One final set of figures, which should concern Team Obama: Gallup found that only 39 percent of Americans approve of the auto bailouts, with 59 percent disapproving. And those numbers are worse if you look only at independents, among whom only 32 percent approve of bailing out the automakers, while 66 percent disapprove. Again, we don't know where that issue ranks for voters, but it bears watching.

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