Obama's poll numbers show wear
Washington (CNN). October 21, 2009. As President Obama navigates his way
through a series of issues as controversial as they are vital, he's
getting a yellow flag from the American people.
For the first time since Obama took office, fewer than half of Americans
agree with the president on issues important to them, according to a
CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Tuesday. A majority, 51
percent, disagree -- a jump of 10 percentage points since April.
Despite the majority disagreement on issues, the poll also found the
president's approval rating remains in the healthy mid-50s. And
two-thirds of Americans say he has the personal qualities a president
"It's awfully early yet, but this president might be shaping up to be a
little like Ronald Reagan, where people actually didn't often agree with
Ronald Reagan's ideas, but they loved the guy," said Paul Begala, a
Democratic strategist and CNN contributor.
A popular president who is less popular on the issues -- Obama could use
his personal popularity to rally support for his less popular agenda.
"They still like the messenger. That's important for Obama because he'll
be able to look presidential, and Americans may respond to that as he's
trying to make a pitch for his health care plan, financial reform,
whatever he decides to do in Afghanistan and Iran," said Keating
Holland, CNN's polling director. Watch more on what the poll numbers
The poll shows it's a lot harder to keep people liking you when you're
governing than when you're politicking. It's a familiar path for
presidents, who often start out popular but see their numbers drop as
they get down to the nitty-gritty.
In Obama's case, legislation to overhaul health care has not been kind
to his numbers.
And about the Nobel Peace Prize, even the president seems stunned he got
"To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so
many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize,"
Obama said after the award's announcement.
Americans apparently agree. About a third believe the president deserved
the prize, according to this week's CNN/Opinion Research poll. Fifty-six
percent say they disapprove of the Nobel Prize Committee's decision to
honor him, the survey found. Still, there's a hometown hero effect here,
with almost 70 percent saying they are proud an American president won
it, the poll said.
And then further proof of that adage that Americans like their
politicians most when they are not running for anything, the most
popular person in the Obama administration is not the still-popular
It's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sixty-five percent of Americans
view Clinton favorably, outshining even first lady Michelle Obama by a
percentage point, according to the survey.
"It's not surprising that Clinton tops Barack Obama on the favorable
ratings," Holland said. "Secretaries of state don't get blamed for
economic problems or unpopular domestic policies, and they often don't
get the same share of the blame as the commander in chief for
international slip-ups either. But typically, the first lady gets even
better favorable ratings than the secretary of state, so the fact that
Clinton's numbers are slightly better than Michelle Obama's is a bit
Clinton is in a nonpolitical position, doing policy work in an area in
which she really likes working. She was once seen as a sharply divisive
politician, the "also-ran" of the 2008 Democratic primary season.
And for the president -- there is a lesson in that. Poll numbers have a
way of changing. Nothing like, say, a health care overhaul bill that
works, that might bring more people on board as to agreeing with his
The CNN/Opinion Research poll was conducted Sunday through Thursday,
with 1,038 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's
sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Source: CNN's Paul Steinhauser
contributed to this report.