‘First 100 Days’: A Closer Look, Part II

Published: May 15, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
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Last week I shared the results of a new poll that Capps Center Director Wade Clark Roof and I commissioned Zogby International:  “Integrity, Leadership, Trust.”  We asked more than 3,300 Americans to grade both President Obama and Congress based on the qualities and issues they considered most important on November 5-6, 2008.

Last week’s commentary revealed the “quality” grades:  Mr. Obama scored 58% positive numbers on honesty and integrity and 59% positive marks on leadership. Congress received 75% negative numbers on honesty and a 77% negative rating on integrity.

The top three issues that Americans consider most important:  the economy, the war in Iraq and healthcare reform.

On the issue of “fixing the economy,” respondents were split as to whether they give Mr. Obama a positive (50%) or negative (49%) rating on his leadership.

More than half, 56% of those polled, rate Mr. Obama’s leadership in “bringing the troops home from the Middle East” as positive, while 41% rate it as negative.  Concerning healthcare, an issue Mr. Obama campaigned on, respondents are split as to whether they rate the president’s leadership in reforming healthcare as positive (46%) or negative (49%).

When asked about Mr. Obama’s ability to “improve America’s image in the world,” another issue Americans deemed important, 59% were confident in his performance, and 57% were confident that the president could “improve international relations by meeting with foreign leaders.”

When it comes to “working with Congress,” Mr. Obama received 63% positive marks compared to a 52% negative score for Congress “working with the president.”

When asked, “How satisfied are you with the leadership of President Obama” after one-hundred days in office, half (53%) say they are satisfied with Obama’s leadership, two-fifths of which say they are very satisfied (39%).  However, 46% say they are dissatisfied with his leadership, two-fifths of which say they are not at all satisfied (39%).

To the question, “Do you believe President Obama makes decisions based on what’s best for the country or based on what helps him politically,” 50% say they believe Obama makes decisions based on what’s best for the country, while slightly less believe he bases his decisions on what helps him politically (45%).

When asked to rate Mr. Obama’s ability “to do the right thing in handling a crisis,” more than half (55%) expressed confidence, while two-fifths (43%) said they were not confident.

Finally, when asked if Mr. Obama is moving the country in the right direction, respondents are relatively split. 52% are confident compared to 47% who are not confident.  With this question, most respondents fall at one end of the spectrum or the other, as a third (35%) say they are “very confident” that Obama is moving the country in the right direction, and two-fifths (39%) saying they are “not at all confident.”

Overall, the Capps study shows that Americans are encouraged about the start to Mr. Obama’s presidency because they like him personally. They trust him, think he is smart and has the best interests of the country at heart.  On the other hand, they are split about whether he has the right solutions to fix the current economic troubles.  They also have questions about his approach to health care reform. Although the results of both issues are far too early to be seen, they will continue to be closely scrutinized.

The survey supports the fact that Americans still hold their Congressional leaders in generally low esteem.  A key indicator comes in response to the question asking voters to rate Congress on “restoring the public’s trust in government.”  Congress scored a dismal 81% negative rating.

As the Capps study shows, Americans are still craving honesty, integrity, and leadership – and as long as Mr. Obama doesn’t stumble, his ratings will remain high.  One important aspect of this has been Obama’s willingness to speak plainly and directly to the American people about what it will take to bring about a sustainable economic recovery and other issues.  As long as he is perceived as communicating clearly and honestly, he should sustain the trust of the American people.

However, the results of his various economic efforts as well as a viable healthcare plan will be the next great test Mr. Obama will face.


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