(Such comparisons are imperfect given different polling approaches; the Gallup polls from Eisenhower to Carter had many more "undecided" respondents than more current polls tend to measure.)
Obama's personal appeal also is important; his overall job approval rating is higher than nearly all his individual-issue ratings, suggesting that his popularity beyond the issues is lifting assessments of him overall.
Personal popularity also can provide cartilage for a president when times get tough. Among Obama's attributes in this poll, 74 percent call him honest and trustworthy, about as many say he can be "trusted in a crisis" and "understands the problems of people like you" and six in 10 say he shares their values. Fewer, but still 56 percent, see him as a good commander-in-chief, a prominent question during the election campaign.
A final cautionary note has to do with the vagaries of events and their influence on a president's fortunes. Views that the country is on the right track last were this high in the flush of apparent success in Iraq in late April 2003, a day before George W. Bush popped out of a fighter jet onto the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln under a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished." The political winds soon shifted dramatically; as the war and then the economy took their toll, his popularity never regained its level of that day.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone April 21-24, 2009, among a random national sample of 1,072 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents and an oversample of African-Americans (weighted to their correct share of the national population). Results for the full sample have a 3-point error margin; click here for a detailed description of sampling error. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.