Poll: Obama's disaster management gets solid marks

President Barack Obama is briefed on the situation in Libya during a secure conference call with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, right, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, AFRICOM Commander General Carter Ham, and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, March 20, 2011. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Updated 9:30 a.m. ET

CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

The U.S. and other countries began cruise missile and air strikes in Libya on Saturday -- an effort to protect civilians from attacks by the country's long-time ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

A CBS News survey shows that exactly half of Americans approve of how President Obama is handling the situation in Libya, and just 29 percent disapprove. Twenty-one percent said they did not have an opinion.

President Obama receives more support from Republicans on this issue than he has on domestic issues such as the economy and the deficit. Forty-three percent of Republicans say they approve of how the President is handling the crisis in Libya, and 41 percent disapprove. A majority 66 percent of Mr. Obama's Democratic voters said they approved, along with 43 percent of independents.

On another pressing international issue - the U.S. response to the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan - President Obama receives a much higher approval rating.

More than seven in 10 Americans (73 percent) say they approve of the President's handling of the U.S. response to the triple disaster, and just 14 percent expressed disapproval.

Such high marks are not unprecedented; Both President Obama and his predecessor received similarly high approval ratings for their handling of other natural disasters overseas.

In January 2005, 81 percent said they approved of President George W. Bush's handling of the tsunami in South Asia, and in January 2010, 80 percent said the same of how President Obama was handling the U.S. response to the earthquake in Haiti.

More from this poll: Most Americans no more fearful of nuclear power

The president's overall job approval rating now stands at 49 percent, with 41 disapproval, similar to evaluations of him last month. The percentage that approves has hovered in the mid to high 40s for the past year.

As they have been, views of Mr. Obama are polarized by partisanship - 78 percent of Democrats approve of the job he is doing, but that drops to 18 percent among Republicans. Independents are more closely divided - 46 percent approve, and 39 percent disapprove.


Read the complete poll


This poll was conducted by telephone on March 18-21, 2011 among 1,022 adults nationwide. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

  • CBS News Staff

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