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Poll: Approval ratings for Obama, Congress dip

Updated Obama approval rating chart, April 21, 2011
CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

Forty-six percent of Americans approve of how President Obama is handling his job, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll, while nearly the same percentage - 45 percent - disapprove.

Mr. Obama's disapproval rating has risen four points since March and six points since January, and now matches where it stood in October 2010, shortly before the Republican-dominated midterm elections. His approval rating has dropped three percentage points since last month, though that drop is within the poll's three-point margin of error.

Congress, meanwhile, remains exceedingly unpopular, with just 16 percent approving of the job Congress is doing. That roughly matches where Congress' job approval rating stood last May, before the midterm elections. Last month, Congress' approval rating was at 21 percent.

Seventy-five percent of Americans - three in four - say they disapprove of the job Congress is doing. That's up from 66 percent last month.


House Speaker John Boehner fares slightly better than Congress overall, but he's not exactly beloved. Thirty-two percent of Americans approve of his performance on the job, compared with 41 percent who disapprove - including 22 percent of Republicans. Twenty-seven percent say they don't know.

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Mr. Obama remains popular with Democrats, with 79 percent approving and 16 percent disapproving of his job performance. But just 9 percent of Republicans approve - compared to 85 percent who disapprove.

Independents are split on the president, with 43 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving of his performance. His disapproval rating has risen six points from last month.

When it comes to the issues, Mr. Obama has a 39 percent approval rating on his handling of foreign policy (down from 47 percent last month), a 39 percent approval rating on his handling of Libya (down from 50 percent last month), a 38 percent approval rating on handling the economy and a 33 percent approval rating on handling the budget deficit.

Seventy percent of Americans say the country is on the wrong track -- the highest percentage since Mr. Obama first took office. Just 26 percent say it is headed in the right direction. Only 19 percent say the economy is in good condition, while 80 percent say it is in bad condition.

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The battle over the budget:

While Mr. Obama has a paltry 33 percent approval rating on his handling of the budget deficit, Republicans in Congress fare even worse, with a 27 percent approval rating.

Most Americans say neither the president nor congressional Republicans share their priorities. Forty-three percent say Mr. Obama shares they priorities (compared to 53 percent who say he does not), and just 32 percent say congressional Republicans share their priorities (compared to 60 percent who say they do not.)

Most Republicans - including most Tea Party supporters - say Republicans in Congress share their priorities, while most Democrats say Mr. Obama shares their priorities.

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Asked who showed stronger leadership in the recent budget negotiations that almost led to a government shutdown, Americans were divided. Thirty-nine percent said Republicans in Congress, while 37 percent said Mr. Obama.

Forty-one percent said Republicans compromised too little in the negotiations, while 35 percent said Mr. Obama compromised too little. Roughly one in five Americans said each compromised too much.

Americans trust Republicans in Congress more than Mr. Obama to make the right decisions about reducing the deficit, by a 44 percent to 39 percent margin. But they trust Mr. Obama more on Medicare and Social Security, by a 45 percent to 40 percent margin.

Forty-one percent blame the George W. Bush administration for the deficit. Eighteen percent blame Congress, while 14 percent blame the Obama administration.


Asked whether they would prefer to reduce government spending or pay higher taxes to lower the deficit, Americans choose the former. Fifty-eight percent would prefer to reduce spending, while 29 percent would rather pay higher taxes.

A majority - 55 percent - say higher taxes are not necessary to lower the deficit. Forty-one percent say tax increases are necessary.

President Obama has called for an end to the Bush-era tax cuts, which would mean higher taxes for individuals making more than $200,000 per year and families making more than $250,000 per year. The budget plan passed by the House GOP would eventually reduce the corporate tax rate and the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Seventy-two percent of Americans said in the poll that they support increasing federal taxes starting in 2013 for households earning $250,000 a year or more in order to lower the deficit. Just 24 percent opposed such an increase.

Generally, Americans favor smaller government (55 percent) over more services (33 percent). Republicans overwhelmingly support smaller government - with 85 percent preferring to move in that direction - while nearly half of Democrats would prefer more services.

The economy and jobs remain by far the most important issue to Americans, with 39 percent citing it as the most important problem facing the country. But the budget deficit is a growing concern, with 15 percent citing it as the most serious problem facing the country. That's up from 7 percent last month.

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PDF: Read the complete poll results

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,224 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone April 15-20, 2011. 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 Republicans was also conducted for this poll, for a total of 543 interviews among this group. The results were then weighted in proportion to the average party distributions in previous 2011 CBS News and CBS News/New York Times Polls and in the random sample in this poll. The margin of error for Republicans is plus or minus four percentage points.
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