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Poll: Obama Approval Rating Mixed, but Most See No Economic Progress


CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto.

Americans have mixed feelings about President Obama's job performance, a new CBS News/ New York Times poll shows, with 45 percent saying they approve and 47 percent saying they disapprove. However, disapproval does not mean disappointment -- most Americans say that Mr. Obama's performance in office is what they expected.

Yet on the issue of the economy, which Americans perceive as the top problem facing the country, the president receives wider criticism. Mr. Obama's approval rating on the economy stands at just 41 percent. Another 51 percent of Americans disapprove.

Six in 10 Americans think Mr. Obama has not made progress fixing the economy, and a majority (53 percent) thinks he does not have a clear plan for creating jobs.

Still, Mr. Obama receives little of the blame for current economic conditions - that goes to President George W. Bush and Wall Street. When asked who is most to blame for the state of the economy, 37 percent blame the Bush administration, followed by Wall Street (21 percent), and Congress (11 percent). Just 5 percent said the Obama administration is most to blame.

Although Americans are unhappy with the direction of the country and the economy, 63 percent say Mr. Obama's performance in office has been about what they expected, according to the poll, conducted Sept. 10-14.

Just over one in four, including 17 percent of Democrats, say Mr. Obama's performance has been worse than expected. Most of those who are disappointed in the president are Republicans. Few Americans - even among Democrats -- say he has exceeded their expectations.

Among those who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, 67 percent think his performance in office has been as they expected. Nineteen percent say it has been worse, but 12 percent say it has been better.

No progress on the economy

Only 39 percent think the president has a clear plan for solving the country's problems - more, 57 percent, think he does not. But these ratings are far better than those accorded to Republicans in Congress; 72 percent of Americans say they don't have a plan.

While the president's overall job approval rating remains mixed, he remains popular with his base - 76 percent of Democrats approve. More independents disapprove (49 percent) than approve (42 percent) of the job he is doing.

The economy and jobs remain foremost in the minds of Americans - 60 percent volunteer it as the most important problem facing the country today. Eight in 10 think the economy is at least somewhat bad, and just one in five thinks the economy is getting better. Nearly six in 10 voters are at least somewhat concerned that someone in their household will lose their job in the next 12 months.

While as many as six in 10 say the president has made no progress fixing the economy, views on this measure are highly partisan. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans say he has not made progress, and 54 percent of Democrats say he has.

Meanwhile, twice as many Americans see Mr. Obama as doing more to improve the economy than Republicans in Congress.

There is little consensus over the effect the 2009 economic stimulus package has had on the economy. Thirty percent think it has made the economy better, while fewer, 20 percent, think it has made the economy worse. Even more, 46 percent, think it hasn't had an impact.

And while 34 percent think the stimulus package was too large, 27 percent think it was not large enough. Another 28 percent think the size of the stimulus package was about right.

On health care, foreign policy

More Americans disapprove than approve of the second piece of legislation most strongly associated with the president - health care reform. Thirty-seven percent approve of the law, but 49 percent disapprove. Most Democrats approve, while most Republicans and independents disapprove.

Of those who disapprove, 82 percent say they want the current health care law repealed, though this number drops to just 48 percent if it means that insurance companies are no longer required to cover people with existing medical conditions or prior illnesses.

One policy area where there is agreement along party lines is over how the war in Afghanistan is going. Most Americans - 55 percent - think it is going badly, including majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Though most Republicans think things are going badly in Afghanistan, 51 percent also think the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting the war there. Most Democrats and independents think the U.S. should not be involved.

Belief that the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting in Afghanistan has been slowly slipping over the past year. Now just 38 percent think so, down from a slight majority last October.

Just 23 percent of Americans think the war in Iraq was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq, even after most U.S. combat troops have been removed from the country. Democrats and independents overwhelmingly say the war was not worth it, while Republicans are divided.

More from the poll:

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Tea Party Supported by One in Five in New CBS News/NYT Poll

Read the Complete Poll

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 990 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone September 10-14, 2010. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial 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 is higher.

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

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