Poll: Americans optimistic about Obama's next four years

President Obama announces his administration's new gun law proposals in the Eisenhower Executive Office building January 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. Getty Images

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

Nearly six in 10 Americans say they are optimistic about the next four years with Barack Obama as president, according to a new CBS News/ New York Times poll.

The president heads into his second term with daunting fiscal challenges on the horizon. In the coming weeks, he will have to work with a combative Congress to raise the nation's borrowing limit, avert unwanted spending cuts and extend the federal government's operating budget. The president is also expected to spur job growth while reducing the nation's deficits and debts. Nevertheless, Americans are more likely to think the economy will be better off than worse off after four more years.

Pie Chart - Optimism for President
CBS/NYT

As might be expected, most Republicans (78 percent) are pessimistic about the next four years with Mr. Obama as president, according to the poll, conducted Jan. 11-15. Meanwhile, a majority of Democrats (89 percent) and independents (59 percent) are optimistic.

The nation's overall sentiment, with 59 percent of Americans saying they are optimistic, is similar to what it was in January 2005, as President George W. Bush was about to start his second term. In 1997, when President Bill Clinton was entering his second term, people were slightly more optimistic at 66 percent.

Optimism was more widespread just before Mr. Obama took office four years ago. Then, 79 percent of Americans (including 56 percent of Republicans) expressed optimism about his presidency.

When asked what they would like to see Mr. Obama accomplish in his second term, 35 percent volunteered improving the economy and jobs. Another 13 percent said dealing with the budget deficit, and while others mentioned taxes, health care, ending the war in Afghanistan, and more bipartisanship.

Even though Mr. Obama is about to begin his fifth year in office, more Americans continue to blame former President George W. Bush for the condition of the economy (27 percent), than blame the current president (13 percent). Wall Street (19 percent) and Congress (14 percent) get some blame, too.

Chart - Right Decision
CBS/NYT

Looking ahead to some of the issues Mr. Obama will confront over the next four years, most Americans are at least somewhat confident that he will make the right decisions on the economy, Afghanistan, protecting the country from terrorism and illegal immigration. They are more likely to be very confident in his ability to handle Afghanistan and terrorism.

After the next four years, 42 percent of Americans expect the nation's economy to be better, the poll shows, while just 25 percent think it will be worse.

However, expectations for the nation's health care system are not as positive. More Americans think the health care system will be worse (38 percent) rather than better (33 percent) by the end of Mr. Obama's second term.

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