POLL: Obama's Approval Slips on Stimulus, Deficit and Health Care

Indeed the public by 61-35 percent opposes increased stimulus spending beyond the nearly $790 billion already committed – a dramatic turnaround from 70 percent support for the initial stimulus in January. And "strong" supporters then outnumbered strong opponents by more than 2-1; now it's strong opponents who predominate, 43 percent vs. 18 percent.

In another example of deficit fallout, barely over half, 52 percent, now see Obama as a "new-style Democrat who will be careful with the public's money," down from 62 percent in March. Forty-three percent instead see him as "an old-style, tax-and-spend Democrat," up from 32 percent; his 30-point advantage has shrunk to 9. (Clinton, similarly, went from a 26-point to a 5-point advantage on this question in roughly his first six months.)

It all matters: Among people who say they're worse off financially, 66 percent disapprove of Obama's job performance overall, while just 29 percent approve. And among those still confident his efforts will improve the economy, 92 percent approve of his work in office; among those who lack such confidence, 78 percent disapprove.

That's why, where confidence in his economic efforts goes, the president's overall approval is very likely to follow. (Reagan's not the only example – nor the most dire, since he had time to recover. The first President Bush saw his approval rating plummet by 36 points as result of the 1990-91 recession, costing him re-election.)

It's telling, too, that Obama's approval rating for handling the economy has declined not only by 12 points from its peak among Republicans and 11 points among independents, but also by 9 points from its peak among Democrats. And on the deficit, he's lost 12 points from his peak approval among Democrats, as well as 9 points among Republicans and independents.

Confidence that Obama's efforts will improve the economy, further, has not only lost 26 points among Republicans since January, but also 20 points among independents. Among Democrats that's down by a milder 7 points.

One better bit for Obama is that he still escapes main blame for the economy's condition in the first place – albeit a bit less so. Sixty-two percent assign the Bush administration a great deal or good amount of blame "for inadequate regulation of the financial industry," down 8 points from March. Separately, 32 percent assign blame to the Obama administration "for not doing enough to turn the economy around" – up by 6 points.

While the president doesn't currently come in for heavy criticism for his focus on top issues, 29 percent do say he's placing "too little" priority on the economy and more, 39 percent, say he's underfocused on the deficit. A quarter say he's spending too much time on health care, but nearly as many say too little.

ATTRIBUTES – For all the challenges on issues, personal appeal can provide the political cartilage that keeps a president popular – as both Reagan and Clinton demonstrated in their presidencies. That Obama retains in good measure – although, again, to a lessened degree.

Sixty-three percent say he "understands the problems of people like you," more than ever said so about George W. Bush, albeit down significantly from 73 percent in April. Sixty-two percent say Obama's brought needed change to Washington – steady from April, but down from the 76 percent who expected him to do so at the start of his term. And 71 percent see him as a strong leader, slightly off its peak, 77 percent, three months ago.

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