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Poll: Most think president can impact gas prices

AP Photo/Steve Helber

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - When it comes to reducing the price of gasoline, a majority of Americans still seem to think the president wears tights and a cape and can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Despite countless assertions by President Obama and his top aides that there is no silver bullet he can fire or magic wand he can wave to quickly bring down gas prices, a CBS News/New York Times poll out tonight shows 54 percent of those surveyed believe that gas prices are something the president "can do a lot about."

And since the price of gasoline has soared 51 cents a gallon since the beginning of the year, the new poll also shows Americans may hold President Obama to blame.

His overall job rating has plummeted from 50 percent in February to 41 percent in the latest survey.

For a president seeking re-election, that spells trouble with a capital "T," though Mr. Obama sounds understanding.

"People are frustrated when gas prices are going up," he said in an interview today with CBS Station KDKA in Pittsburgh. He said there are things his administration can do with respect to gasoline prices, "but they're not going to provide results overnight." (watch at left)

Mr. Obama is far from the first president to face public dismay that he can't do something fast to lower gasoline prices.

"There's no such thing as a quick fix," President George W. Bush said about rising gasoline prices in a speech in August 2008. "If I had the magic wand, I'd wave it," he said of his efforts to bring prices down.

"But the president doesn't have a magic wand," he conceded at a news conference a month earlier. "You just can't say: 'low gas.'"

He said it took a while for gasoline prices to reach the point there were at and "and it's going to take us a while to get out of it."

The White House today went to great lengths to cast a spotlight on what it billed as "historic achievements" the administration has made a year after launch its "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future."

The progress included:

  • A cut of 10 percent -- or a million barrels a day - in imports of foreign oil
  • An increase in domestic oil and natural gas production in every year so far of the Obama presidency.
  • Rigorous fuel efficiency standards that will require average performance equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon.

Mr. Obama is quick to acknowledge that such progress is of little comfort if Americans are feeling more pain at the pump.

"Despite the gains we've made, today's high gas prices are a painful reminder that there's much more work to do to free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil and take control of our energy future," said the president in a written statement.

He said "that's exactly what his Administration is committed to doing "in the months ahead."

But his would-be rivals in the Republican presidential field are quick to go further and promise more.

Former Speaker of the House News Gingrich rarely fails to remind supporters that the price of gasoline averaged $1.89 on the day Mr. Obama took office. Gingrich is adamant in declaring that his plan for more domestic production could quickly lead to gasoline at just $2.50-a-gallon. The price tag "$2.50" is on his lectern during campaign events as if it's a presidential seal.

"Any politician who says that is lying," proclaimed White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, referring to the Gingrich claim without mentioning Gingrich by name.

"That strategy does not exist," said Carney. "It is a simple fact that there is no such plan that can guarantee the price of oil or the price at the pump."


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Read the complete poll (PDF)

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