Chart - Obama Approval
September 16, 2011 6:30 PM

Obama's approval rating drops to all-time low; Public split on jobs plan

Kevin Hechtkopf
Polling ,
White House ,
Campaign 2012
Chart - Obama Approval (Credit: CBS)
CBS News Poll analysis by the CBS News Polling Unit: Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus and Anthony Salvanto

As concerns about the struggling U.S. economy grow, a new CBS News/New York poll finds that President Obama's overall approval rating has dropped to 43 percent, the lowest so far of his presidency in CBS News polling. In addition, his disapproval rating has reached an all-time high of 50 percent.

Views of the president's job performance are marked by a striking degree of polarization along party lines -- the vast majority of Democrats approve (78 percent), while even more Republicans disapprove (89 percent) of how he's handling his job. But only 37 percent of independents approve, with 54 percent disapproving.

Except for a notable spike in approval after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May, President Obama's approval rating has been below 50 percent since the spring of 2010.

Not surprisingly, the down economy has had a clear impact on Mr. Obama's approval rating.

The poll also found that 39 percent of Americans say the economy is fairly bad, and another 47 percent say the economy is very bad - the highest percentage since April 2009. Meanwhile, 13 percent say the economy is fairly good and just one percent say it is very good.

In addition, 72 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track -- the highest percentage so far since the president took office. Just 23 percent think the country is currently in the right direction.

As for Mr. Obama's rating on the economy, just 34 percent approve of the way he has handled the economy, with 57 disapproving. And on the issue of job creation, 40 percent approve and 53 percent disapprove.

In the poll, just one in four Americans thinks Mr. Obama has made real progress fixing the economy, with 68 percent saying they do not think he has. Americans are more skeptical now than they were a year ago, when 35 percent said he made progress.

But half the public sees economic conditions as generally out of a president's hands - 53 percent now say the condition of the national economy is beyond any president's control and 41 percent of Americans have faith that the economy is something a president can do anything about. As a comparison, when this question was asked back in October 1992, 59 percent said the economy was something a president could do something about (35 percent said no).

In addition, for the first time, more Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the president than a favorable one - 39 percent have a favorable opinion, while 42 percent view him unfavorably. Eighteen percent are undecided.

With just over a year before Mr. Obama faces voters again for re-election, it should be noted that Mr. Obama's overall approval rating is similar to that of Bill Clinton's (43 percent) and Ronald Reagan's (46 percent) about a year before their presidential elections when they won re-election. Conversely, George H.W. Bush had a 70 percent approval rating about a year before the presidential election but then lost his bid for re-election.

Obama's jobs plan

As for Mr. Obama's latest proposal to lower unemployment, the American Jobs Act he presented to Congress last week, the public is split. While 64 percent say they have heard about the bill, Americans are divided as to whether the plan will actually create jobs. Nearly half of Americans are at least somewhat confident that Mr. Obama's proposals will create jobs and stimulate the economy --12 percent are very confident and 36 percent are somewhat confident. But about the same amount -- 47% -- are not confident his plan will do that.

There is a wide partisan divide on views of the jobs plan. Four in five Republicans don't have confidence that the plan will create jobs - while about as many Democrats do. Fifty-two percent of independents are not confident.

However, most Americans support some of the specific individual elements included in the president's plan. Among the policies measured in this poll, support is highest for cutting taxes for small businesses and spending money on the nation's infrastructure, such as bridges, airports and schools. Fifty-six percent like the idea of a payroll tax cut, and 52 percent think providing money to state governments so they can avoid layoffs of public employees is a good idea.

(Credit: CBS News/NYT Poll)

Some of these proposals even receive bipartisan support. Large majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike think cutting taxes for small business is a good idea, and most also think a payroll tax cut is a good idea. Majorities think spending money on the country's infrastructure is a good idea - but Democrats (90 percent) support that to a far greater degree than Republicans (62 percent). One area in which Democrats and Republicans do not agree is providing money to state governments -- while 72 percent of Democrats think that is a good idea, just 29 percent of Republicans do.

However, Americans express considerable doubt that the two sides in Congress can come together and agree on a job creation package. Just 31 percent have at least some confidence that this will happen (only 3 percent are very confident), while 45 percent are not very confident and 22 percent are not at all confident.

On the other big issue in Washington this fall -- how to lower deficit -- most Americans would like to see both tax increases and spending cuts to lower the deficit, and most (56 percent) also support increasing taxes on households with incomes of $250,000 or more.

More from the CBS News/NYT poll:

Most think U.S. on wrong track as fears about economy grow
Perry leads pack in Republican presidential race
Just 12% happy with Congress
Read the complete poll (PDF)

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,452 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone September 10-15, 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 781 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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