Americans say President Barack Obama lacks an effective strategy for improving the U.S. economy. They have much less confidence in the Republican vision for success.
By a margin of 51 percent to 40 percent, a Bloomberg National Poll shows Americans say Obama lacks the right formula for long-term growth, a goal he presented in his State of the Union address with the phrase “win the future.”
The Democratic president still does better than Republicans: When asked who has a better vision for the years ahead, 45 percent of poll respondents chose Obama and 33 percent picked the Republicans.
“He was promising change,” says poll participant Jessica Wolf, 20, who attends Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette, Indiana. “I haven’t seen any change. There are no jobs out there for us.”
The poll’s findings underscore the difficulty Obama faces in convincing voters he can boost employment and cut the deficit. The public’s perception of his ability to implement an effective strategy to improve the nation’s long-term prospects is likely to be one of his top hurdles to re-election.
“The challenge for 2012 is to connect every policy and position to what it means for jobs,” says J. Ann Selzer, president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the March 4-7 poll. “Right now, the public shows little confidence the president has forged that connection. But they show even less confidence in any vision the Republicans have conveyed at this point.”
In his Jan. 25 State of the Union address and remarks since then, Obama, 49, has said America’s future is dependent on creating an environment where U.S. companies and workers can surpass foreign competitors. He has called for more spending on education and infrastructure, such as rail and telecommunications networks, to build a foundation for growth.
To encourage innovation, Obama has proposed a larger tax credit for research and development and said companies can benefit from government-loan programs to expand.
“We are getting left behind by a lot of countries, and something is going to have to be done,” says poll participant David Dickson Sr., 63, an automotive-parts sales manager who lives in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Only a third of independents, a critical group for Obama’s re-election prospects, say he has an effective strategy for improving the nation’s long-term economic vitality. Almost three-quarters of Democrats think he has the right plan, compared with just a tenth of Republicans.
The survey of 1,001 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Among aspects of his job tested in the poll, Obama receives his lowest marks on dealing with the federal deficit. Only 38 percent of poll respondents approve of his handling of the budget gap -- projected to reach $1.6 trillion this year --while 56 percent disapprove.
Obama and Republicans in Congress are locked in a battle over the budget and deficit-reduction plans. Instead of more federal investment, Republicans have called for tax cuts, fewer regulations and bolder moves to lower the deficit.
The national unemployment rate is projected to be 8.4 percent in 2012, according to a median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News in February. That would be down from 8.9 percent now, although no president since World War II has been re-elected with a jobless rate higher than 7.5 percent.
While stocks have risen since Obama took office Jan. 20, 2009, the gains largely came during his first year. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is up almost 64 percent since he was inaugurated, though only about 5 percent this year.
51% Job Approval
Overall, 51 percent of respondents approve of the job he is doing as president, compared with 43 percent who disapprove. At least half dislike his efforts on the economy, the budget deficit, health care and job creation. Slightly more approve than disapprove of his handling of the turmoil in the Middle East.
Obama’s job approval is essentially unchanged from a year ago when the country was embroiled in a debate over health-care overhaul legislation. It’s up slightly from its low of 47 percent in a Bloomberg poll taken in December, the month after Republicans gained control of the U.S. House.
Demographic groups where the president has seen improvement include younger Americans and women. Among those 34 and younger, Obama’s approval is 58 percent, up from 51 percent in December. With women, his approval is 54 percent, up from 49 percent.
Women as Key
Women are a critical group for presidential elections, so much so that David Plouffe, a senior Obama adviser, has made a benchmark out of how a figurative middle-aged woman in the battleground state of Ohio will view the president’s actions.
The health-care legislation -- Obama’s top policy accomplishment -- continues to weigh on his presidency. Two-thirds say they oppose a requirement that all Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. Forty-one percent say the legislation should be repealed when asked about the bill.
“I don’t think it was thought through all the way,” said poll participant Karen Hamel, 61, a call-center representative who lives in Zieglersville, Pennsylvania. “How can you fine someone because they don’t have the money to buy health care?”
Hamel is among the majority who oppose the mandate provision. Even among Democrats, just 52 percent favor it, compared with 28 percent of independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
More Americans -- 55 percent -- view Obama favorably personally than approve of his job performance. He remains more popular than the Republican Party, at 41 percent, and Democratic Party, at 49 percent.
Obama’s favorability among Republicans has increased since December, when he struck an $858 billion deal to extend all Bush-era tax cuts, as sought by congressional Republicans, in exchange for measures to promote jobs. He is now viewed favorably by 19 percent of Republicans, up from 14 percent.
Almost half of Americans say they don’t yet know House Speaker John Boehner well enough to form an opinion. Almost a third view the Ohio Republican favorably, while a quarter see him unfavorably, essentially unchanged since December.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 67, who last week announced he has set up a website to raise money and explore a run for the White House, has seen his favorability drop since heightening his profile.
Gingrich is viewed favorably by 28 percent, down from 33 percent in a Bloomberg poll in July. Four of 10 Americans view him unfavorably. He is doing better with Republicans, although worse with independents than in July.
Real estate developer Donald Trump, 64, who is also considering a Republican presidential bid, is seen favorably by 37 percent and unfavorably by 43 percent. Among Republicans, 39 percent hold a favorable impression, while 48 percent of Tea Party supporters feel that way.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, 47, who is also contemplating a Republican White House run, has seen her favorability among all political groups drop since December.
Sixty percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Palin, the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president, while 28 percent view her favorably. Since December, she has dropped 3 percentage points among Republicans, 7 percentage points among both independents and Tea Party supporters and 3 percentage points among Democrats.
For many Americans, the deficit is such an overriding issue that it will burden anyone who sits in the White House.
“I don’t think any president can get us out of the debt that we are in as a country,” says poll participant Sonya Cooke, 26, an insurance company claims adjuster from Mayfield Heights, Ohio.