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January 17, 2013

Pew poll: Obama in good shape heading into a second term

Heading into his second term, President Obama is in a stronger position with the public than he was over much of his first term, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

At 52 percent, Obama's job approval rating is among the highest since the early months of his presidency. His personal favorability -- 59 percent -- has rebounded from a low of 50 percent in the fall campaign. And, Pew says, "increasing percentages describe him as a strong leader, able to get things done and as someone who stands up for his beliefs."

Obama's political advantage is enhanced by the poor standing of Republicans. A Pew survey conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults found that both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are viewed more unfavorably than favorably.

The Republican party's image, which reached a recent high of 42 percent favorable following the convention last summer, has slipped "once again" to a low of 33 percent.

The poll says that while Obama's personal image is "strong," his current job rating is not high compared with other two-term presidents since World War II: Among presidents dating back to Harry S. Truman, only George W. Bush began his second term with a rating about as low as Obama's. And Bush, like many recent two-term presidents, saw his job rating plummet during his second term.

The poll says 82 percent say Obama stands up for what he believes in, 59 percent say he is a strong leader and 57 percent say is able to get things done. All three measures are higher than they were a year ago, but "much lower" than before his first inauguration in January 2009.

The poll also finds the public pessimistic about the prospects for bipartisan cooperation: Just 23 percent expect the two parties will work together more in the coming year. And just a third expect economic conditions to get better over the coming year – that figure was 43 percent in December 2008.

Along with the pessimism is more support for compromise: 50 percent say they like elected officials who compromise with people they disagree with, while 44 percent like politicians who stick to their positions. The percentage favoring compromise has increased 10 points since 2011. But the poll notes that while Democrats and independents are more likely to prefer politicians who compromise, there has been little change in Republican opinion.

The poll also found Obama's picks for State and Defense, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, got "mixed ratings," from the public. But both men elicit particularly negative reactions from Tea Party Republicans. Fully 70 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Kerry. Hagel, who is not nearly as well known as Kerry, also is viewed very negatively by Tea Party Republicans.

The poll found bipartisan support for New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie.


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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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