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Most Americans disappointed in Obama's presidency, poll says

CBS News elections director Anthony Salvanto sits down with Fred Backus of the CBS News polling unit to discuss the upcoming midterm elections
Heading into the midterms, views of Republicans, Democrats 02:22

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

Amid continued pessimism about the economy and direction of the country, 59 percent of Americans say they are disappointed in Mr. Obama's presidency (including 37 percent who are very disappointed); 40 percent are satisfied. Much of this discontent comes from Republicans and independents, but a quarter of Democrats express at least some disappointment.

Disappointment with Barack Obama's presidency has grown since the summer of 2012, and much of that rise has been among independents. Forty percent of independents say they are very disappointed today, up from 27 percent in August 2012.

Feelings About Obama Presidency So Far

President Obama's overall approval rating is now 41 percent, a dip of five points from last month and similar to what it was in December. Fifty-one percent disapprove of the job he is doing, up four points from last month.

President Obamas Job Rating

More specifically, Mr. Obama gets low marks for his handling of both foreign policy (39 percent approve) and the economy (38 percent approve).

Washington and Congress

But it's not just the president -- most Americans are disillusioned with the way things are going in Washington generally, and they continue to hold negative views of Congress. Seventy-nine percent are unhappy about the way things are going in the nation's capital, including three in 10 who are angry. Majorities of all partisan stripes are displeased. Still, dissatisfaction and anger have lessened somewhat since the federal government shutdown last fall.

Congress remains unpopular with the American public -- just 13 percent approve of the job it is doing, and 80 percent disapprove.

Issues Facing the Country

The poll asked about a number of issues, both foreign and domestic.

Over half of Americans think same-sex marriage should be legal. Views are similar to what they were last summer (56 percent support it; last summer it was 55 percent), but a turnaround from the spring of 2012 when just 42 percent thought same-sex marriage should be legal. There are partisan differences: a majority of Republicans (55 percent) think it should not be legal, while most Democrats (70 percent) and independents (56 percent) think it should be.

On the economic and domestic side, two-thirds of Americans support increasing the federal minimum wage. More personally, eight in 10 are concerned their income is not keeping up with the cost of living, including 55 percent who are very concerned.

Fifty percent think the health care law has good things in it but changes need to be made to make it work better; four in ten want the law repealed entirely (including 70 percent of Republicans). Most think any plan to reduce the budget deficit should include both spending cuts and tax increases.

Just under half of Americans think global warming is caused by human activity, while another third say it is caused by natural patterns in the earth's environment and 14 percent think it does not exist. Two-thirds of Democrats believe human activity causes global warming, while Republicans are inclined to think natural patterns in the environment are responsible.

On foreign policy matters, most support using drones against suspected terrorists in foreign countries, but 65 percent do not think the U.S. should take the leading role in solving international conflicts. There is partisan agreement on both of these issues.

Americans are divided about another domestic issue that has been in the news lately - funding of pre-kindergarten programs. Forty-seven percent think the federal government should fund such programs for all children, while 52 percent think it should be left to each individual state government to decide. Seventy percent of Republicans think it should be left to the states, while 65 percent of Democrats think the federal government should fund it.

In its efforts to fight terrorism, 45 percent of Americans think the government has gone too far in infringing on people's privacy, while 42 percent think the balance is about right. Independents are the most likely to think the government has gone too far.

The State of the Economy and Direction of the Country

Americans are still pessimistic about both the economy and the direction the country is headed in overall. Sixty-two percent think the economy is in bad shape, while just over a third rates it as good. These perceptions have not wavered much over the past year.

By a wide margin, more continue to think the country is off on the wrong track (63 percent) rather than headed in the right direction (32 percent).


This poll was conducted by telephone February 19-23, 2014 among a total of 1,644 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by Social Science Research Solutions of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll included a general population sample of 1,003, along with additional interviews to yield the following sample sizes: 519 Republicans, 515 Democrats, and 610 independents. The additional interviews were obtained through callbacks to people indicating party id on a previous poll. The total sample was then weighted to party distribution targets from the general population portion of the poll.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The margin of error for Republicans, Democrats and independents is 6 points. The error for subgroups may be higher. 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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