Similarly, just 21 percent say they're confident in the Republicans in Congress "to make the right decisions for the country's future," compared with 60 percent who express that confidence in Obama. And the Republicans have lost 8 points on this measure since January, while Obama has held steady. (Apart from Obama, 36 percent express confidence in the Democrats in Congress, down 7 points. A striking difference is that 64 percent of Democrats express confidence in their own party, while just 39 percent of Republicans are confident in theirs.)
While he's wildly popular in his own party, Obama owes much of his broader appeal to his centrist image. On an ideological scale 62 percent call him "about right," very near his 65 percent in January, the highest "about right" ideological rating in polls since 1979. (Thirty-three percent call him "too liberal," down from a pre-election peak of 40 percent.)
Among independents, the center of national politics, Obama has a 67 percent job approval rating; among moderates, 75 percent approve.
TORTURE – For all his positive ratings, Obama's surrounded by plenty of sand traps. One example: Republican pushback on interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, led by former Vice President Dick Cheney, has shown some traction.
The number of Americans who endorse Obama's blanket ban on torture has declined from 58 percent in January to 49 percent now, down by 12 by points among Republicans, by 11 points among independents and by 16 points among conservatives. Previous polling has shown lessened opposition to aggressive interrogation if it actually prevents terrorist attacks, as Cheney argues.
Most Americans support Obama's release of previously secret Bush administration records on torture, but by a fairly tepid 53-44 percent, with strong supporters and strong opponents about evenly matched. And the public continues to divide, now by 51-47 percent, on the question of an investigation into the Bush administration's treatment of terrorism suspects, with vast partisan and ideological divisions.
Still, in sum on terrorism, more Americans think Obama's policies are making the country safer than less safe, by 32 percent to 21 percent, with the rest saying security's the same. And 62 percent approve of his handling of the U.S. campaign against terrorism overall -- a level Bush never achieved at any point in his second term.
MORE HAZARDS – There are plenty of other hazards for Obama, many having to do with federal spending. Just 51 percent approve of his handling of the federal budget deficit, with 43 percent disapproving. Nearly nine in 10 express concern about the deficit overall and nearly six in 10 are "very" concerned about it, unchanged since December.
Obama's worst rating, 41 percent approval, with 53 percent disapproving, is on the situation involving the big U.S. automakers in Detroit. Majorities have opposed the government loans keeping GM and Chrysler afloat.
There's majority skepticism more generally about controls on the spending of the economic stimulus money: Fifty-three percent are not confident the federal government has put in place adequate controls to avoid waste and fraud in the use of these funds. Far more are "not at all" confident of that, 32 percent, than "very" confident, just 7 percent.