People (still) really like President Obama

March 27, 2013

Nearly six in ten Americans have a favorable impression of President Obama in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, numbers that suggest that even as the chief executive engages in a series of thorny policy fights his personal appeal remains strongly intact.


President Obama remains personally popular in a new Washington Post-ABC poll.

Fifty-seven percent of people view Obama favorably in the new Post-ABC survey while 41 percent regard him unfavorably. Those numbers are remarkably similar to the 60 percent favorable/37 percent unfavorable ratings for Obama in Post-ABC polling conducted in late January -- just weeks after the president had been inaugurated for a second term.

The high regard with which the public holds Obama personally stands in contrast to the more middling job ratings for the president.  In the latest Post-ABC national poll -- conducted earlier this month -- 50 percent approved of how he was handling his job while 46 percent disapproved.

That discrepancy isn't new for Obama. Throughout his presidency, his personal favorable numbers have far outstripped his job approval ratings. In short: People like him (and his image as a father and husband) more than they like his policies. That likability factor shouldn't be undersold, however, as it played a central role in Obama winning a second term despite a scuffling economy and negative ratings for his efforts to fix it.

A look at exit polling from the 2012 election tells the story. One in five voters said that a candidate who "cares about people like me" was their top priority in making up their mind in the contest; Obama won 81 percent among that voting bloc.

What's clear from Obama's continued strong favorability ratings is that he has, to date, not seen much damage to his personal image from the contentiousness between the White House and Congress over sequestration and guns (and, to a lesser extent, immigration).

What's not is whether Obama's favorability numbers grant him a political upper hand as negotiations over the that trio of issues heat up. In other words: Does the fact that people still like Obama matter when it comes to divisive policy issues?  Or does the fact that Obama's job approval is hovering right at 50 percent matter more?

Supreme Court shifts focus to DOMA: Today, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether Congress can withhold federal benefits from same-sex couples married in states where it is legal. The Defense of Marriage Act is the center of this case. The law limits federal recognition of marriage to those between a man and a woman, and denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples.

Consideration of the case comes a day after the court heard arguments over California's same-sex marriage ban, and took a cautious approach to the prospect of weighing in on the matter.

Fixbits: 

Obama named Julia Pierson as the first female head of the Secret Service.

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) officially announced his plans to retire.

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) will announce his Senate campaign today.

North Dakota's Republican governor signed the nation's strictest abortion law.

Rick Santorum will stump for Curtis Bostic (R) in South Carolina's 1st district GOP runoff.

Democratic automated pollster Public Policy Polling finds that Mark Sanford (R) and Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D) are running about even.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is writing a book.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his Senate allies are threatening to filibuster Senate Democrats' gun violence legislation.

The first Massachusetts special election debates are tonight. And a new poll shows Rep. Ed Markey still leads the Democratic race.

"Law and Order" takes on Todd Akin's controversial comments.

Secretary of State John Kerry heads a soccer ball.

Must-reads:

"Parties scramble to come to terms with opinion shift on same-sex marriage" -- Dan Balz, Washington Post

"Justices Signal They Want to Move Slowly on Same-Sex Marriage" -- James Oliphant, National Journal

"Johnson Retirement Gives Senate GOP Another Opportunity" -- Kyle Trygstad, Roll Call

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Sean Sullivan · March 26, 2013