Obama Approval Moves Ahead Though Challenges Remain


One key issue is better for the GOP: For the first time in ABC/Post polling, Obama and the Republicans are tied in trust to handle health care reform -- with trust in Obama dropping 9 points since last month to a new low, and trust in the Republicans gaining a scant 4 points. A Republican-backed vote to repeal the health care law is scheduled for this week.

On this, it's independents making the difference; they've moved from a 50-35 percent preference for Obama on health care a month ago to a 48-31 percent tilt toward the GOP today. (There'll be more from this poll on health care in a forthcoming analysis.)

More broadly, approval of Congress is up by 5 points, but from a near-historic low to simply very, very low -- 28 percent. (Bad as it is, that's its highest since February 2008.) New House Speaker John Boehner's approval rating stands at 39 percent -- lower than Nancy Pelosi's when she took over as speaker in 2007 (54 percent), while about the same as Newt Gingrich's starting mark, 35 percent, in 1995. Many, 33 percent, have no opinion of Boehner; his initial disapproval, 27 percent, is about the same as Pelosi's, and 10 points lower than Gingrich's.

While both Obama and the Congress have ticked up in their ratings, the Tea Party political movement's gone in the other direction -- a 7-point increase in the number of Americans who see it unfavorably, now 52 percent, more than half for the first time. That includes a 10-point increase among Democrats, to 74 percent unfavorable, and 8 points among independents, to 50 percent. Republicans are much more apt to see the Tea Party favorably -- 59 percent do so.

Obama Gains in ABC News/Washington Post Poll

Notably, twice as many Americans now see the Tea Party "strongly" unfavorably as strongly favorably, the widest division in intensity since ABC and the Post first polled on the movement last February. A key reason is that just 27 percent of Republicans strongly favor the movement, while twice as many Democrats, 52 percent, see it strongly unfavorably.

And there's Sarah Palin, measured in this survey in terms of her response to the Tucson incident. As reported Monday, just 30 percent approve. And as with the Tea Party, Palin's strong disapprovers (specifically on the Tucson shooting) outnumber her strong approvers by 2-1.

ISSUES -- Some of Obama's ratings on handling individual issues, while still tepid, are up from their lows. His 46 percent approval on handling the economy compares with a low of 41 percent in September. He's +5 on handling the deficit from last month, albeit just to 43 percent. And his 49 percent approval on Afghanistan is slightly up from 45 percent last month.

At the same time his approval rating on health care, at 43 percent, matches his career low.

Trends on trust to handle issues are similar. As noted, the Republicans in Congress have pulled even with the president in trust to handle health care; on others Obama's improved. He's got a 46-41 percent edge in trust to handle the economy, vs. an essentially even rating last month. Trust to handle the deficit has gone from +8 GOP last month to a scant +3 Obama now. And the president's gained especially in trust to handle Afghanistan, now with a surprising 52-31 percent advantage; the winter lull in casualties may be a factor.

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