Analysis: Many Americans Approve President Obama's Economic Policies

Forty-two percent say the country is headed in the right direction.

ByABC News
December 15, 2008, 12:03 PM

March 31, 2009— -- Americans' views of the country's direction have improved sharply since President Barack Obama took office 70 days ago, fueled by better hopes for the economy and broad support -- albeit sharply partisan -- for his administration's recovery efforts.

There's far yet to go: Views of the economy's course and the country's overall direction are still more negative than positive. Ratings of the current economy remain dismal, with widespread blame and anger directed especially at corporate America. And Obama's approval rating is more divided by partisanship than any president's at this stage in office in available data back to 1953.

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But the gains in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll are impressive nonetheless -- and potentially a persuasive tool for Obama at this week's G20 economic summit in London:

- Forty-two percent of Americans now say the country's headed in the right direction, more than double its level (19 percent) just before Obama took office in January and up from a mere 8 percent in October, a record low since the question first was asked in 1973. Most, 57 percent, still say the country's headed off on the wrong track -- but that's down from 78 percent in January and a record 90 percent in October.

- A central reason: While 36 percent still say the economy's getting worse, that's fallen dramatically from 62 percent in January and a record 82 percent last October. And while just over a quarter, 27 percent, say the economy's improving, that's grown from only 6 percent in January and 2 percent last fall.

Positive reviews of Obama's work in office, particularly on the economy, inform these gains. Sixty-four percent express at least some confidence that his economic plan will help -- down from 72 percent in January but still a substantial level of support. Sixty percent approve of his handling of the economy, an accomplishment, given its dire condition. And his overall job approval rating, at 66 percent, is essentially steady from a month ago and the best in 20 years for a president at this stage in office.

OVER, NO; PARTISAN, YES -- But the public's economic distress is nowhere near over. Positive ratings of the national economy, buying climate and personal finances remain near their lows in 23 years of weekly polls by ABC News. And the improvements in attitudes are very highly partisan; Republicans, by and large, have not joined the party.