Poll: Americans optimistic about Obama's next four years

The president's job ratings

A 44 percent plurality of Americans think Mr. Obama accomplished about what they expected during his first term in office, but 36 percent say he accomplished less than expected, and just 18 percent say he accomplished more.

There are partisan differences: Half of Republicans think he accomplished less, while Democrats are more evenly divided.

Fifty-one percent of Americans now approve of the overall job Mr. Obama is doing as president. This is a slight improvement from this time a year ago, but lower than the approval rating he received just after taking office in 2009.

Mr. Obama's overall job approval rating is similar to that of President George W. Bush as he was heading into his second term, but lower than the approval ratings of Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan just before they began their second terms.

However, fewer than half of Americans approve of how the president is handling some key issues. He does best on foreign policy (49 percent), and gets his lowest approval rating on handling the deficit (37 percent).

Mr. Obama has recently made some appointments to his cabinet, and more Americans generally approve than disapprove of his selections. However, 28 percent have no opinion.

As debate begins to heat up over issues like the deficit and gun control, 59 percent of Americans think the president will have more influence than the Republicans in Congress over the direction of the country for the next two years. There is agreement on this across party lines.

Even though Americans may be generally optimistic about the next four years with Mr. Obama in the White House, they are not especially hopeful that there will be more cooperation between Republicans and Democrats than there has been in the last four years. Fifty-five percent said they expect the level of cooperation to remain the same.

The Mood of the country and the economy

A majority of Americans (57 percent) continue to think the country is off on the wrong track, but 38 percent now believe it is headed in the right direction. This assessment is an improvement from a year ago, and significantly better than four years ago, as Mr. Obama was about to assume the presidency.

Views of the economy continue to be negative (66 percent say it's bad), but have remained fairly steady over the last few months, and are markedly more positive today than they were four years ago. About a third of Americans think the economy is getting better.

While a majority of Americans are at least somewhat concerned about a job loss in their household, just 27 percent are very concerned, the lowest percentage since August 2009.

For the full poll results, see next page

This poll was conducted by telephone from January 11-15, 2013 among 1,110 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 may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.