POLL: Obama's Speech Doesn't Turn the Tide

OTHER RATINGS – Most broadly, the president now has a 54 percent overall job approval rating, with 43 percent disapproving, continuing the erosion in his support since April as the inaugural honeymoon's faded and he's taken ownership of the country's problems.

His overall approval has slipped to 49 percent among independents, not significantly different from last month but his first mark under 50 percent in this quintessential swing group. It's 87 percent among Democrats vs. 15 percent among Republicans, a vast partisan gap.

Nearly as many Americans now "strongly" disapprove of the president, 31 percent, as strongly approve, 35 percent. From his best in February, his strong approval is down by 8 points; his strong disapproval, up by 14. It's risen sharply among moderates and independents (by 15 and 16 points, respectively) as well among conservatives and Republicans (by 23 and 29 points).

With 9.7 percent unemployment, the economy is critical. Obama gets a tepid 51 percent approval rating for handling it. In an especially weak rating, just 39 percent approve of his handling of the deficit, a new low, while 55 percent disapprove. And most notably, his advantage in trust to handle the economy has contracted from 61-24 percent in April, the record for a president over the opposition party in polls since 1991, to a much narrower 48-37 percent now.

The number of Americans who say Obama's doing a better job than they expected has subsided from 54 percent in April to 42 percent now; those who say he's doing worse, meanwhile, has grown from 18 percent then to 31 percent now.

Nonetheless, while 39 percent call Obama "too liberal," up 10 points from the pre-inauguration level, that's no higher than it was just before the election, and about the same as the number who, at the peaks, saw John McCain, and George W. Bush before him, as "too conservative."

And Obama has a potentially important ace in the hole: his personal popularity. Sixty-three percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of him overall, 40 percent "very" favorable. That's well down from its peak, 79 percent in January, but still quite positive. His favorable rating among Republicans, though, has dived from 54 percent then to 24 percent now.

Democrats, Republicans and Health Care

PARTY TIME – While the Republicans have moved closer to Obama on some issues, they haven't gained in allegiance overall. Just 21 percent of Americans in this poll identify themselves as Republicans, matching the number in April and the fewest since the record low in ABC/Post polls, 19 percent in September 1983.

Instead, as noted, the number identifying themselves as Democrats has slipped to 32 percent, compared with averages of 35 percent this year and 36 percent in 2008. The previous high for independents, now 43 percent, was 41 percent in July and in an early 1996 poll. The number of independents wasn't so high last month (34 percent), leaving the durability of these readings unclear. But it certainly doesn't make the task of partisan persuasion easier for either side.

The Democrats still do retain the upper hand; Americans trust them over the Republicans to handle the nation's main problems by a substantial 48 percent to 28 percent – although less broad than the 56-23 percent Democratic advantage in December, a 27-year record.

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