President Obama at One Year: Lower Ratings, Higher Doubts

Bruised if unbroken, President Barack Obama faces shrinking public confidence, increasingly negative views of the country's direction and far lower ratings than those he carried triumphantly into the White House a year ago this week.

But it could be worse.

Despite their disappointments, 53 percent of Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Obama's job performance overall -- 15 points lower than his opening grade, but still just over half at the one-year mark. He remains personally popular, if far less so. And confidence in his leadership, as weakened as it is, greatly exceeds that in the Republicans in Congress, or, for that matter, in his own party.

Click here for a PDF with charts and questionnaire.

VIDEO: ABC News/Washington Post poll looks at Obama a year into his first term.
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The comedown nonetheless is dramatic, partly given the high expectations when Obama took office. Sixty-two percent of Americans now say the country's off on the wrong track, the most in 11 months. For the first time more than half, 53 percent, aren't confident in Obama to make the right decisions for the country's future. Just 41 percent say he's keeping his major campaign promises. And while a year ago 76 percent thought he'd bring "needed change" to Washington -- his campaign mantra -- far fewer, 50 percent, today say he's actually done so.

Indeed more than half, 52 percent, now say Obama hasn't accomplished much overall -- up sharply from 36 percent at the three-month mark, the height of his economic recovery efforts. With the economy still rated as the country's most pressing problem, Obama's approval for handling it has fallen from 60 percent a month after he took office to 47 percent today. And a new low, barely over a third, says his policies are making the economy better.

The economy's not the only challenge. While Obama has focused attention on health care -- its rating as the country's most pressing problem is sharply up -- his prescription lacks broad support; 52 percent disapprove of the way he's handling the issue, more than half for the second month and up from 29 percent last spring. And he continues to take it on the chin for the deficit; 56 percent disapprove, more than half steadily since summer.

GRACE: There are some grace notes. Fifty-five percent approve of Obama's handling of the threat of terrorism; more, a notable 62 percent, approve of the way he's handled the government's response to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines jet.

Obama's buoyed, as well, by the fact that 58 percent of Americans continue to express a favorable opinion of him personally, the most basic measure of a public figure's popularity. (George W. Bush, for comparison, left office with 37 percent favorability.) Obama's down a steep 21 points on this score, but it does remain positive for him.

Moreover, 63 percent see Obama as a strong leader, 57 percent say he understands the problems of people like them and 55 percent think he shares their values. These are down, respectively, by 9, 15 and 12 points from their levels when he took office. But personal favorability and empathy serve as a politician's cartilage when the road gets rough, and Obama's aided by the fact that his remain positive overall.

Also, more than half of Americans, 54 percent, see Obama as "about right" ideologically, rather than too liberal, 37 percent (its peak was 40 percent in November) or too conservative. But this too, is down, from an usually high 65 percent "about right" when he took office.

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