Americans' views of Obama, Congress, political parties: Gloomy

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus

Americans' views of both political parties are negative and nearly match historic lows, a new CBS News poll reveals.

Just 29 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Republican Party, down four points from May and just one point above the lowest favorability rating for that party recorded in this poll (in June, 2009). While more - 41 percent - have a positive impression of the Democratic Party, this percentage is also just one point above the all-time low for the Democratic Party, reached in November 1994.

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National security is a particular strength for the Republican Party; 46 percent of Americans say the Republican Party will do a better job on that issue, compared to just 33 percent who choose the Democrats. Democrats lead as the party that better shares Americans' values, and they have a slight edge on immigration. Americans are divided as to which party would do a better job handling the economy.

Obama's Job Performance

President Obama's approval ratings on other key issues remain more negative than positive.

Forty percent of Americans approve and 54 percent disapprove of how Mr. Obama is handling the economy, only slightly better than the 36 percent who approve of his handling of foreign policy. Just 31 percent of Americans approve of how he is handling immigration - an all-time low for his presidency.

Overall, Mr. Obama continues to hold a negative job approval rating. Forty-one percent of Americans approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president while 50 percent disapprove, numbers that have changed little since earlier in the year.

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Americans are critical of how Mr. Obama has been responding to the conflicts in Ukraine and in the Gaza Strip. The president receives net negative ratings for his handling of both, as well as his handling of foreign policy overall (36 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove).

Obama's Leadership and Priorities

Americans are divided as to whether or not the president is a strong leader: 50 percent think he has strong qualities of leadership, while 47 percent think he does not. Positive assessment of the President on this measure has declined gradually over the course of his presidency.

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More specifically, though 52 percent have at least some confidence in Mr. Obama's ability to handle an international crisis, just 25 percent say they have a lot of confidence - down 14 percentage points from last September, but similar to views in March.

Most Americans also don't think the president shares their priorities: 38 percent think he does, while 56 percent think he does not. These percentages have changed little since December.

Despite their reservations about the president, more Americans disapprove (54 percent) than approve (37 percent) of the lawsuit against Mr. Obama authorized by Republicans in the House of Representatives, which charges that the president exceeded his authority when he delayed a provision of the 2010 health care law.

Not surprisingly, there are partisan differences. Two in three Republicans approve of the lawsuit, while four in five Democrats disapprove. Just over half of independents disapprove.

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Congress

While Americans are critical of the president, their view of Congress remains even more dismal: just 15 percent approve of the job they are doing, while 78 percent disapprove. Large majorities of Republicans (71 percent), Democrats (82 percent), and independents (80 percent) disapprove of how Congress is handling its job.

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The Midterm Elections

If the election were held today, the results would look much as they did in June, with Democrats holding a slight edge (41-37 percent). But among those who are more enthusiastic than usual about voting, Republicans have a lead (47-40 percent).

And just over a third of voters say they are more enthusiastic than usual about voting in November.

This year's election campaigns have yet to capture the attention of many voters. Just a quarter of voters are currently paying a lot of attention to the campaign.

The Direction of the Country

Meanwhile, overall impressions of where the country is headed have grown more negative. Just 25 percent think the country is headed in the right direction; down five points from May and the lowest rating since October 2013. Sixty-seven percent think the country is off on the wrong track, including most Republicans (89 percent) and independents (68 percent), and a plurality of Democrats (47 percent).

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The Economy

The national economy remains the most important issue to Americans: 58 percent of Americans rate the economy as at least somewhat bad, while just 40 percent rate it as good.

Twenty-six percent think the economy is getting better, though 30 percent think it is getting worse, and 43 percent think it is staying the same.

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This poll was conducted by telephone from July 29 - August 4, 2014 among 1,344 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

Additional interviews were conducted with Hispanics (for use in future analysis), to yield a sample size of 426. The Hispanic oversample consisted of callbacks to Hispanic respondents who had previously completed a survey as part of a random sample, and interviews with respondents whose telephone numbers were likely to fall in high-incidence Hispanic areas on landline exchanges and cell phone rate centers.

The weighting of the Hispanic sample consisted of non-response corrections for the callback numbers (to account for systematic differences between those completing and those not completing the callback interview), and a weighting adjustment to ensure that Hispanics in high-incidence areas were not overrepresented in the data.

The Hispanic and non-Hispanic samples were weighted separately to match their group's population characteristics such as gender, age, education, region, marital status and phone use based on recent U.S. Census estimates. The samples were then combined in proportion to their size in the population, and weighted to standard parameters of the total U.S. adult population.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. The margin of error for the sample of Hispanics is 6 pts and 4 pts for Non-Hispanics. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.


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