Obama sees popularity gains on domestic issues only

February 17, 2015, 3:08 PM GMT+0

President Obama's political fortunes have improved on domestic issues, but not foreign policy

Things may be looking better for the President when it comes to domestic issues, but there are concerns about foreign policy and terrorism, which once was a bright spot for the Administration.  In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, Americans are as likely to approve as they are to disapprove of the way the President is handling the economy – something that has not been the case for a very long time.

Americans have slowly noticed the changes in the state of the American economy.  This week, a third of them recognize that the unemployment rate has dropped below 6%, and a majority agrees that the rate is lower today than it was when Barack Obama first took office in January 2009.  Republicans, who for a long time had resisted seeing positive change in the economy, are no different than the public overall on these questions: A third say the jobless rate is less than 6%, half agree it has dropped since President Obama was first inaugurated. 

And when asked if the economy is getting better or worse, slightly more say it is improving than think it is declining.  The percentage saying the economy is getting worse this week is among the lowest seen since 2010.

As has been the case all along, perceptions of the economy are linked to partisanship, with Democrats thinking things are getting better and Republicans vehemently disagreeing. 

When it comes to jobs, Americans are more likely to view unemployment as a very serious national problem than they are to see it as very serious in their own communities.  There is a 16-point difference in the public overall – and an even larger one for Republicans.  More than half of Republicans, 55%, say unemployment is a very serious national problem; just over half that percentage of Republicans, 30%¸ view it as very serious in their own communities.

There is also some good news for the President this week on health care.  For the first time in Economist/YouGov polls, half the public say they would prefer to keep or expand the Affordable Care act.   Still, 40% would repeal it.

Public willingness to continue Obamacare (or even expand it) has improved lately, although Americans are not yet ready to label it a success – and they may never be.  Although a majority believes the number of people now with health care coverage increased in the last year, just 26% label the ACA a success.  41% say it has been a failure.

But these improvement on domestic issues may be overshadowed by the international problems the country now faces – and the President is not seen as doing a great job managing them.  That is particularly true when it comes to the public’s assessment of his handling of terrorism.  Evaluation of the President’s handling of terrorism had often been better than his overall ratings, especially in 2011, when Osama Bin Laden was killed by the U.S. military.   

No longer.   Just 41% this week approve.

In recent polls, Americans have expressed discontent with other aspects of Administration foreign policy, and this week, when it comes to foreign policy in general, only 37% of Americans approve.  Nearly half, 48%, do not.  President Obama’s overall approval rating remains in the low 40’s, with a majority disapproving.  

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.