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Poll: U.S. Largely Optimistic About Obama

Despite a grim economic landscape that has led to cutbacks in holiday spending and overwhelmingly negative perceptions of the economy, 75 percent of Americans are optimistic about Barack Obama's presidency, a new CBS News poll finds.

That's the highest level of optimism that any incoming president has garnered in the past thirty years. Seventy percent were optimistic when Bill Clinton took office in 1993, the second highest level, while 64 percent were optimistic when George W. Bush took office in 2001, the lowest level.

In addition, seven in 10 Americans approve of the people the president-elect has chosen for his incoming administration, and most think his choices will bring experience as well as change to Washington.

There is widespread and growing confidence in Mr. Obama on the issues as well: Seventy-seven percent are confident that he will make the right decisions on the economy, up from 65 percent from September. Seventy-one percent are confident he will make the right decisions on protecting the U.S. from terrorism, an increase of 11 percent from September. And 68 percent have confidence in his decision-making on the war in Iraq, an increase of 12 percent.

Sixty-three percent think Mr. Obama will make a good president, including 29 percent who think he will be very good.

More than seven in ten Americans approve of the president-elect's cabinet picks so far; just 12 percent disapprove. By contrast, just 58 percent approved of President Bush's cabinet picks in 2001. Even nearly half of Republicans approve of Mr. Obama's picks.

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And there is widespread approval for Mr. Obama's decision to tap former primary rival Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state, with 72 percent approving of the choice. In fact, overall views of Clinton are very positive now: Fifty-five percent of Americans presently have a favorable opinion of the New York senator, matching her previous high achieved in January 1999, just after the House of Representatives had impeached her husband.

Seventy-three think the people Mr. Obama has selected will bring the right kind of experience to government. And although many of Mr. Obama's choices have served in high-level government positions during the Clinton administration, 65 percent think they will bring new ideas to government.

Nearly seven in ten Americans expect Mr. Obama to bring Americans together in the next four years. Sixty-four percent expect the president-elect to bring real change to Washington.

Still, few Americans - 21 percent - think Mr. Obama will to able to accomplish all the goals he set out in his campaign.

Fifty-five percent approve of the president-elect, the highest percentage to date. Just 12 percent disapprove. Forty percent approve of Michelle Obama, while 10 percent disapprove and roughly half don't know enough to have an opinion.

President Bush's job approval ratings remain low. Twenty-four percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing, while 68 percent disapprove.

Americans have become more optimistic about the war in Iraq and less so about the war in Afghanistan. Fifty-six percent now think the Iraq war is going at least somewhat well - the most positive assessment of the war since former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was captured in December 2003. But 62 percent think the war in Afghanistan is going at least somewhat badly.

In the wake of the bombings in Mumbai, India, concern about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the next few months has risen slightly, though most Americans don't think it is likely that there will be another terrorist attack in the next few months.

Nine percent say such an attack is very likely, while 36 percent say it is somewhat likely; 53 percent say it is not likely.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,390 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone December 4-8, 2008. 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.
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