In another area, 64 percent approve of Obama's handling of appointments to his Cabinet and other key government positions – despite some flubs, notably in his selections to lead the Health and Human Services and Commerce departments.
STIMULUS – While, as noted, 64 percent in this poll support the stimulus package, "strong" support is lower, 34 percent, and down 9 points from January. It's declined by 16 points among independents, 11 among Republicans.
The deficit is not the only concern. While 58 percent are confident the stimulus will make the recession less severe, just 13 percent are "very confident" of it. And 63 percent think more economic stimulus ultimately will be needed.
Also, while 62 percent think the stimulus will help their local economy, fewer, 46 percent, expect it to improve their own personal financial situation. Nonetheless, that's 15 points more than said so about Clinton's economic package in February 1993.
There's another red flag: Fewer than half of Americans, 46 percent, are confident the federal government will put in place adequate controls to oversee the stimulus spending; 52 percent think not. That's better than the views of Bush's controls on TARP spending – 69 percent saw those as inadequate. But it's hardly a ringing endorsement of the controls Obama's pledged to put in place.
There are areas beyond the stimulus spending for which Obama has support. Seventy-six percent favor stricter regulations of banks and financial institutions, and 64 percent favor Obama's $75 billion plan to provide mortgage refinance assistance.
But the Detroit automakers are another issue: Sixty-eight percent of Americans oppose providing them with the additional federal loans they've requested, even if needed to stave off bankruptcy – another of the relatively few issues on which substantial majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans agree.
GROUPS – Beyond partisanship there are some notable differences across groups. Young people were a core support group for Obama in the election, and remain so; among adults under age 30 his overall approval rating peaks at a startling 84 percent, compared with 59 percent in his weakest age group, seniors.
Preference for Obama over the Republicans to handle to economy similarly peaks among young people, at 71 percent; among middle-aged Americans that drops to 49 percent.
There are income gaps here as well; among people with incomes less than $50,000, 66 percent approve of Obama's handling of the economy; among those in $100,000+ households, this drops to half. Two possible reasons: Better-off Americans are more apt to be Republicans. And they're in Obama's crosshairs on taxes.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 19-22, 2009, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults including both landline and cell phone-only respondents. 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.