Barack Obama approaches the 100-day mark with rising economic hopes, the best job approval rating at this point in 20 years, the broadest personal popularity since Ronald Reagan and half of Americans now saying the country's headed in the right direction.
His problem: The other half don't.
For all he and his supporters have to celebrate, overcoming political divisions -- an Obama pledge -- is not among them. His 69 percent job approval rating in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll is almost exactly the average for an elected president at 100 days in polls back to Dwight Eisenhower. But it belies a more modern partisan gap: Ninety-three percent of Democrats approve. Only 36 percent of Republicans agree.
There's a similar split in the sense that the nation's heading in the right direction. It's soared from 19 percent just before Obama's inauguration to 50 percent today -- a stunning advance to its highest in six years. But while right-track ratings have gained 50 points since January among Democrats, they're up by a far milder 9 points among Republicans.
CAPITAL – Obama nonetheless is stuffing significant political capital into the bank, with economic hopes a key reason. Fifty-five percent of Americans now express optimism about the economy in the year ahead, a majority for the first time since late 2006. And views that the country is in a "serious long-term decline" rather than a normal downturn have eased from 56 percent two months ago to 46 percent now.
Fifty-eight percent approve of Obama's work on the economy, despite its still-parlous condition and very broad concern about his deficit spending. While just a third think his stimulus package has helped yet, another quarter think it will help in time to come. And the public sees no better out there: Obama leads the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the economy by a garish 61-24 percent, the biggest such advantage for a president over the opposition party in polls since 1991.
All told, 54 percent say Obama's doing a better job than they expected, far above either Bush or Bill Clinton at the 100-day mark (39 and 35 percent, respectively). Sixty-three percent say Obama's accomplished a great deal or good amount in his first three months; just 37 percent said that about Clinton. And six in 10 say Obama's keeping most of his main campaign promises, again far surpassing Clinton (42 percent) at this point.
It's not just the economy; Obama gets particularly high grades for his work on international affairs, and he's well-rated on issues as disparate as terrorism, global warming and taxes (the recent anti-tax "tea parties" notwithstanding).
His personal appeal, moreover, is striking: Seventy-two percent see Obama favorably overall, the highest at 100 days since Reagan's 81 percent in 1981. A remarkable 90 percent say Obama is "willing to listen to different points of view"; fewer than half said that about George W. Bush. And 77 percent call Obama a strong leader, nearly matching Bush's best a few months after 9/11.
PARTY and IDEOLOGY – Obama also has the fortune to preside at a time of continuing disaffection with the Republican Party, now deep in the political wilderness. Allegiance to the GOP has been declining since 2004; today just 21 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans, the fewest since September 1983 in ABC/Post polls.