President Obama is showing durability against significant economic and policy challenges, maintaining majority approval for his job performance in the face of broad unemployment, a controversial health plan and continued doubts about his work on the war in Afghanistan.
The trick's in personal appeal, a strong base of support, weak opposition and a teaspoon of sugar in some of the medicine the president's prescribed.
The last is notably so on health care reform. Negatives abound: Fifty-four percent of insured Americans think it'll increase their own costs; among all, 56 percent think it'll raise overall costs, six in 10 think it could shut down many private insurers and 61 percent oppose covering abortions in federally supported plans. For all that, sweetened by other, more popular elements, the plan's holding essentially at an even split, 48 percent in favor, 49 percent opposed.
Obama, for his part, has a 56 percent job approval rating overall, better than on any individual issue tested in this ABC News/Washington Post poll save one – 60 percent for his handling of international affairs. That makes his current foray to Asia look well-timed, playing to a strength while he's got difficulties at home.
Continued personal popularity helps; 61 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Obama overall, his lowest since before the 2008 election and down 18 points from his peak when he took office, but a positive rating nonetheless. Intensity, while diminished, also is still with him; "strongly" favorable views of the president exceed strongly unfavorable ones by 12 points.
Obama's solid in his base – an 84 percent job approval rating among Democrats, falling sharply to 50 percent among independents and a mere 18 percent among Republicans. Notably, he and his party continue to benefit from a floundering opposition, with, for example, a 16-point margin for the Democrats over the Republicans in trust to handle the nation's main problems.
Tellingly, Americans by 2-1, 61 percent to 31 percent, say leaders of the Republican Party are mainly criticizing Obama without presenting other ideas, rather than offering alternatives to his proposals. Independents, the center of politics, hold this view by 54-37 percent. And the ranks of independents are broad: They again account for a plurality of Americans, 39 percent in this survey, while Republicans, in the tank all year, make up just 21 percent of the population.
Other measures underscore the difficulties facing the GOP, which has lost allegiance steadily since 2004, starting with fallout from the Iraq war and growing disenchantment with then-President Bush. The Democrats in this poll outnumber the Republicans by 10 points as the party that "better represents your own personal values" and by 15 points as being "more concerned with the needs of people like you."
Those attributes help soften the blow for Obama on a variety of issues, none more hazardous than the economy. Even while just 37 percent think his stimulus has helped, the public nonetheless trusts Obama over the Republicans in Congress to handle the economy by a 15-point margin, 52 to 37 percent. The GOP hasn't capitalized on his potential vulnerability.