President Barack Obama is a renowned orator, capable of lofty and often moving rhetoric. When it comes to informing Americans about the accomplishments of his own administration, however, he's not exactly the persuader-in-chief.
A Bloomberg Politics poll shows that on two controversial issues, the budget deficit and deporting illegal immigrants, the public believes Obama's critics–even though reality favors the president.
By 73 percent to 21 percent, the public says the federal budget deficit has gotten bigger during the Obama presidency.
Here are the facts: In fiscal 2009, during the first year of Obama's presidency, the deficit was $1.413 trillion. In the current fiscal year, the congressional budget office projects the deficit will be $469 billion, down from $483 billion in the budget year that ended Sept. 30. The deficit has been cut by two-thirds during Obama's six years.
By 53 percent to 29 percent, Americans believe that Obama has sent fewer undocumented immigrants home than were deported a decade earlier. That's a constant refrain of Obama's immigration critics.
It also isn't true.
Immigration agents removed 315,943 people in the last fiscal year. That's down from 438,421 the year before but up 31 percent from the 240,665 deported in fiscal 2004.
"In theory, the midterm elections would have been a time for the public to learn the state of the deficit and the trend on immigration," notes J. Ann Selzer, who conducted the survey. "Yet the facts on these issues, important to the public, have not gotten attention."
The poll of 1,001 U.S. adults was conducted Dec. 3-5 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Not surprisingly, there is a political divide to these perceptions. Republicans by an 8-to-1 ratio say the budget deficit has grown over the last six years; a smaller majority of independents and Democrats say that. Likewise, 66 percent of Republicans say there have been fewer deportations versus only 45 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of independents.
Starting in fiscal 2012, the budget deficit has steadily declined. This is attributed to economic growth, spending cuts–many of which were demanded by congressional Republicans—and the Obama administration's decision to end President George W. Bush's tax cuts for many wealthier Americans.
Deportations of undocumented workers steadily rose for the first five years of the Obama administration The president has been criticized by conservatives for being too lax on deportations and by Latino groups for being too tough.
Good news for the White House is that the public, by 57 percent to 36 percent, says the economy has been growing, not shrinking, over the past year. And this was before last Friday's report showing robust jobs growth.