Analysis: Many Americans Approve President Obama's Economic Policies

Obama overall has a 95 percent approval rating from Democrats vs. 30 percent from Republicans -- a 65-point gap, compared with 58- and 57-point gaps for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at about this point in their terms. That reflects the new age of partisanship that's prevailed since Clinton's days; the early partisan gaps for previous presidents were far smaller. As noted, Obama's overall approval is more partisan than any elected president's at this point in office in available data since 1953.

Two factors buttress Obama against this partisanship: His standing in the center, a 61 percent approval rating among independents; and the Democrats' continued advantage over the Republicans in partisan allegiance, a growing phenomenon since 2004.

UPPER HAND ... BUT WATCH THE DEFICIT -- Obama also retains the upper hand in Washington, a broad 58-25 percent advantage in trust over the Republicans in Congress to handle the economy. That's numerically the lowest preference for the out-party vs. the incumbent president in ABC/Post polls since 1991. (Notably, while 94 percent of Democrats trust Obama over the GOP to handle the economy, far fewer Republicans, 60 percent, trust their own party over the Democratic president on this issue.)

Moving the assessment a step away from the president personally, Americans divide evenly, 49-48 percent, in their approval of the overall federal response to the economic situation. But this, too, represents a sharp gain from December, in the waning days of the Bush administration; then the public disapproved of the federal effort by a 3-1 margin, 72-23 percent.

Still, as underscored both by partisanship and by that split decision on the federal effort in general, not all is peaches for Obama and his recovery work. A big objection: The deficit. They're never popular, and that holds true now. Americans divide by 49-47 percent on whether it's more important to spend on economic stimulus or to hold down the deficit. And Obama's approval rating on handling the deficit is just 52 percent, 14 points lower than his job approval overall.

The Deficit; Blame and Anger for the Economy

Views on the deficit, naturally, are a major factor in views on the recovery plan: People who are more concerned about the deficit are far less apt to back Obama's work on the economy, to be confident it'll succeed or to back the federal stimulus effort overall.

While the deficit is the Republicans' best pushback to Obama, the approach currently has limits: Americans by a substantial 30-point margin, 62-32 percent, reject the notion that he's an old-style tax-and-spend Democrat, instead classifying him as a new Democrat who'll be careful with the public's money. But the future's never certain: Bill Clinton scored similarly well on this question at the start of his presidency -- but then saw the tax-and-spend bear quickly bite. He went from a 26-point edge as a new-style Democrat in February 1993 to an even split by May.

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