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Poll: 100 Days In, High Marks For Obama

As his 100th day approaches, more than two in three Americans approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, a new CBS News/New York Times survey finds.

But while the president earns high marks from Democrats and independents, he has not won the support of Republicans, less than one third of whom approve of the president's job performance so far.

Mr. Obama's 68 percent approval rating at the 100 day mark is better than the ratings of his two immediate predecessors, George W. Bush (whose approval at this point was 56 percent) and Bill Clinton (whose approval was 49 percent). Going back to 1953, only two presidents - John F. Kennedy (83 percent) and Dwight Eisenhower (72 percent) - had a higher approval rating at this point in their terms.

The president has the overwhelming support of Democrats, nine in ten of whom approve of the president. Just 31 percent of Republicans agree, however. The party divisions are similar to those seen under President's George W. Bush and Clinton - Mr. Bush had the support of just 35 percent of Democrats at the 100 days mark, while Mr. Clinton was backed by just 26 percent of Republicans at this point.

Mr. Obama enjoys the approval of Americans overall on every major issue: Iraq (63 percent approval), the economy (61 percent), foreign policy (59 percent), Afghanistan (56 percent) and terrorism (55 percent). He is widely seen as a different kind of politician, one who Americans say cares about them and can unite different groups. Most say he has already made progress on critical issues and that he is tough enough to make the hard decisions required of a president.

There are doubts, however, that the president he will be able to end the recession and the war in Iraq by the end of his first term in office. Just 37 percent say Mr. Obama will get the country out of the recession in his first term, while 44 percent say he will end the U.S. involvement in Iraq in four years in office. Still, a majority of Americans say the president has made progress on both fronts during his first 100 days.

One in two Americans, meanwhile, do not think the president has started making progress on cutting taxes for the middle class - even though tax cuts were part of the President's economic stimulus plan that was passed in February.

Majorities say it is either "very" or "somewhat" likely that Mr. Obama will bring about significant reform in health care (67 percent say so), immigration (59 percent) and energy policy (75 percent) during his first term - though the percentage that say such reform is "very" likely is relatively low.

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Full Coverage Of Obama's First 100 Days

Americans have high expectations for Mr. Obama's term in office, with 72 percent saying they are "optimistic" about the next four years. The percentage of Americans who say America is headed in the right direction is 41 percent - less than a majority, but substantially more than said so in February (23 percent) or October (just seven percent).

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed, meanwhile, say Mr. Obama's presidency has improved the U.S. image around the world. Just 11 percent say his presidency has worsened it.

Views Of The President:

Sixty-eight percent of Americans say Mr. Obama is a different kind of politician. Just one in four call him "typical." Asked what makes Mr. Obama different, far more cite his governing style (40 percent) than his policies (nine percent).

Americans are split on whether Mr. Obama has made progress on changing the "way things are done in Washington." Forty-eight percent say he has done so, while 45 percent say he has not.

The president's personal favorable rating stands at 54 percent, a slight drop from January. At this point in his presidency, George W. Bush's personal favorable rating stood at 41 percent. Eighty percent say Mr. Obama cares at least somewhat about their needs and problems, including 54 percent who say he cares "a lot."

Roughly three in four Americans say the president is tough enough to make hard choices. Sixty-two percent have confidence in him to deal with an international crisis. Sixty-three percent say he will unite the country.

Americans believe the news media have been relatively easy on the president. Forty percent say the media have been easier on Mr. Obama than on his predecessors, while just 18 percent say they have been harder on him.

The Vice President And First Lady:

Vice President Joe Biden receives relatively positive reviews from Americans, though 37 percent don't yet have an opinion. Fifty-percent approve of the vice president's job performance, while just 13 percent disapprove.

The reviews for first lady Michelle Obama are overwhelmingly positive. Eighty-four percent approve of her job performance, while just six percent disapprove. Her personal favorable rating stands at 67 percent, up from 50 percent earlier this month.

The Economy And Foreign Affairs:

Assessments of the economy remain grim, with just 16 percent rating it as good and 84 percent saying it is bad.

But the percentage who says the economy is improving, while still low, is now the highest it has been in over four years. Twenty-six percent now say it is getting better, while 25 percent say it is getting worse. In February, just five percent said the economy was getting better.

The percentage of the public that says the country is headed in the right direction now stands at 41 percent. While that percentage is similar to what it was earlier this month, it is significantly higher than before Mr. Obama assumed office. Fifty percent think the country is on the wrong track, the lowest number since July 2003.

Though Mr. Obama receives the highest approval rating on handling foreign policy of any modern president at this early point in their presidencies, slightly more than half of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is going badly.

Just over a third think the U.S. should increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, something the Obama administration has done recently; 29 percent think the number of troops should be decreased, and 23 percent think the troop level there should remain the same.

Sixty-one percent say the U.S. should not negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Thirty-one percent say the U.S. should do so.

Asked how things are going for the U.S. in Iraq, seventy-one percent say they are going well, the highest percentage since 2003. Only 24 percent say they are going badly.

A majority of Americans - 53 percent - say the U.S. should establish diplomatic relations with Iran, despite the country's nuclear ambitions. Thirty-seven percent say the U.S. should not do so.

A majority of Americans do not believe the Obama administration has gone far enough in lifting limitations on travel to and from Cuba, despite its recent easing of restrictions.

Sixty-percent think the government should permit travel to and from Cuba for all Americans. Twenty-three would permit travel only for those with relatives there, while just ten percent think no U.S. citizen should be allowed to travel there.

Health Care, Immigration And Guns:

Most Americans believe the U.S. health care system needs to be dramatically overhauled. Thirty-eight percent say the system should be "completely rebuilt," while 49 percent say it needs "fundamental changes." Just 12 percent say the current system needs only minor tweaks.

Americans are split on illegal immigration, though most support allowing those already in the U.S. to remain in the country. Forty-four percent say illegal immigrations currently working in the U.S. should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship. Twenty-one percent say they should stay as guest workers. Thirty percent, meanwhile, say they should be forced to leave the country.

Despite a spate of recent gun violence, support for tightening gun laws has actually fallen, though a majority would prefer stricter gun control. Sixty percent of Americans want stronger gun laws, while seven percent want gun laws to be looser; thirty two percent want the laws kept the same.

Fifty-four percent favor reinstituting the nationwide ban on assault weapons, a policy that was in place from 1994 to 2004. Forty-one percent oppose such a ban.

Republican Opposition And The Recession's Impact:

Just three Republicans - all members of the U.S. Senate - supported the President's economic stimulus package, and not a single Republican voted for his budget. Seven in 10 think Republican members of Congress are opposing the president's economic plans mostly for political reasons; just 23 percent say they are doing so because the president's policies will be bad for the economy.

Overall, Congress receives an approval rating of only 28 percent, about the same as it has been since the start of the year.

The recession's impact has been widespread, affecting seven in 10 Americans. The good news is that relatively few - 22 percent overall - say it has caused hardship and major life changes for them.

Forty-seven percent, meanwhile, say the recession has caused them difficulties, though not life changes. The remaining 30 percent say it has not had much effect on them.

Still, nearly half of those surveyed say the recession has caused hardship and major life changes for people they know, even if it hasn't significantly affected them directly.

About three in 10 Americans say they can still afford to save and buy extras. Fifty-eight percent are concerned that they or someone else in their household will lose a job in the next year, including 32 percent who are very concerned.

Americans are split on how the recession will affect spending by Americans in the long term. Forty-seven percent think Americans will continue to spend less money even after the recession is over. Forty-eight percent, meanwhile, think people will revert to their pre-recession spending habits once the economy improves.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 973 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone April 22-26, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines 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.

An oversample of African Americans were interviewed for a total of 212 interviews with African Americans. The results then weighted in proportion to the racial composition of the adult population in the U.S. Census. The margin of error for the sample of African Americans is 7 points.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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