President Obama will give his third State of the Union address Tuesday night, his last one before facing voters for a reelection bid in November. It’s a key opportunity to frame his record in a positive light after he received a decidedly mixed report card in a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week. Here are some highlights on how the American public sees Obama’s presidency just before he addresses Congress.
Job approval and accomplishments - Americans split on whether Obama is doing a good job in the latest Post-ABC poll — 48 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving. On his productivity, 52 percent say the president has accomplished “not much” or “little or nothing,” while 47 percent say he has achieved “good amount” or a “great deal.”
On both approval and accomplishments, there are more strong detractors than supporters. And among those who say Obama hasn’t accomplished much in his first term, many more blame the president himself rather than Republicans in Congress, though a substantial number of them volunteer that both are to blame.
Across a range of issues, Obama earns his strongest reviews for handling the threat of terrorism - 56 approve, while 38 percent disapprove. But only 35 percent approve of his handling of the federal budget deficit, including just one in four who describe themselves as political independents. He draws somewhat better ratings on his handling of the the all-important economy and job creation, though he remains in the red on both issues.
Economic recovery -- Unemployment has fallen steadily in the last few months, but a 54 percent majority of adults said that in their personal experience, the economy hasn’t begun to recover. Partisanship plays a key role in economic assessments, with Democrats much more positive about the economy than Republicans. Indeed, with just 9 percent of all adults perceiving a strong recovery, this may be a classic “cup half empty/half full” phenomenon. Obama needs to convince voters to believe the latter.
Middle class rhetoric- Obama has reserved a seat for Warren Buffet’s secretary in first lady Michelle Obama’s box for a reason: to draw a clear contrast with his Republican opponents and position himself as the one who cares more about the middle class. Obama holds a 48 to 35 percent advantage over congressional Republicans in trust to protect the middle class in the Post-ABC poll.
He also he stood his ground on extending the payroll tax cut late last year, which was largely popular in a December Associated Press-GfK poll. In his speech, Obama may chide Republicans for opposing tax increases on people with incomes over $250,000 or $1 million, which an overwhelming majority of Americans supported in polls last October.
Obama may emphasize the importance of economic fairness, highlighting the growing income gap between the wealthiest Americans and others. About six in 10 Americans in a November Post-ABC poll recognized a growing wealth gap, and the same number said government should do something about it. In the Post-ABC poll released last week, the public chose economic unfairness as a bigger national problem than over-regulation of the free market by a 55 to 35 percent margin .