First 100 Days of the ‘New Era of Responsibility’

Published: April 27, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
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President Obama has called for “a new era of responsibility… Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”  Last week he pointed to “a confidence gap, when it comes to the American people… [and said] we’ve got to earn their trust.”

So, when it comes to responsibility and openness, how is Mr. Obama doing?  Is he working to restore the trust and confidence of the American people?  Has he delivered on his promise of more transparency?

This week I, along with Professor Clark Roof, Director of the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life at UC Santa Barbara, will be putting a different kind of 100 Days poll into the field.  Entitled, “The First 100 Days – Integrity, Leadership, Trust,” its purpose is to gather and report the grades Americans give Mr. Obama in those characteristics they consider most essential.

Last November, in a nationwide post-election poll, Clark and I asked Americans “What one or two qualities do you think the country needs most from the new president?”

More than 3,300 Americans said that the country needs Honesty, Integrity and Leadership most.

On the occasion of his first 100 days in office, Clark and I will not only be asking Americans to rate President Obama’s overall performance, but grade both him and Congress in terms of honesty, integrity and leadership, as well as transparency.

Among the questions the poll looks to answer are the level of confidence the public has in President Obama’s leadership in fixing the economy, working with Congress and restoring the public’s trust in government.

The Capps “First 100 Days” poll, conducted by Zogby, will also ask Americans to grade both Republicans and Democrats in Congress in terms of honesty, transparency, and restoring the public’s trust in government.  In a 2006 study, “Honesty and Trust in America,” Congress was given the lowest numbers of trustworthiness at 76%, with President Bush and corporate leaders tied at 67% of “low” numbers.

Unlike other “First 100 Days” surveys, the Capps poll is a longitudinal study in that we have responses at two points in time: post-election and 100 days out. The poll also seeks to learn how Americans view the president’s handling of issues, such as the war in Iraq, health care and taxes.

The November Capps post-election study found that Americans want from the president “[a] clear vision to unify the country… [a] sense of personal responsibility …complete honesty [and] unquestionable integrity.”

“The First 100 Days – Integrity, Leadership, Trust” seeks to determine if Obama has succeeded in improving confidence in leadership and whether he and Congress have begun to restore the public’s trust in government.

The results will be released soon.


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