Obama’s efforts are barely connecting with public, but Congress is well off target

May 21, 2013

A slim majority of Americans say President Obama is focusing on things that matter to them personally, while a clear majority say Republicans in Congress are not, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.

Fifty-one percent say Obama is mainly concentrating on things that are important to them, while 44 percent say his attention is on things that are not important to them. The split tracks Obama's job approval numbers -- 51 percent approve of the job the president is doing, while 41 percent disapprove.

Republicans in Congress, on the other hand, have misplaced their priorities, Americans say. Fully 60 percent say congressional Republicans are focused on things unimportant to them personally. Just 33 percent say Republicans on Capitol Hill are concentrating on things that are of personal importance.

Part of the problem for Republicans is that their base isn't squarely behind them. A third of Republicans and more than four in 10 conservatives say congressional Republicans are focused on unimportant matters. There also is stronger animosity toward congressional Republicans from liberal Democrats than there is from conservative Republicans toward Obama.

Another part of the GOP problem is independents; 30 percent say Republicans in Congress are focused on issues important to them, compared to 49 percent who say the same thing about the president.

The issues occupying Obama's focus are tied much more closely to his job approval than his predecessor. Post-ABC polls consistently showed more Americans approving of George W. Bush than believing he was focused on issues of personal importance.

What about Democrats in Congress? They fall somewhere in between. Fifty percent say congressional Democrats are focused on unimportant issues while 43 percent say their attention is on the issues that matter.

What this all means is that even as much of Obama's early second-term agenda has been stalled (gun control went nowhere, he's yet to strike a big deal on the deficit, and immigration reform remains a question mark), about half of Americans still like the issues to which he has devoted his attention. And for Republicans, the opposite is true. Even as they have stymied the president, their focus isn't winning the public over.

Scott Clement contributed to this post. Clement is a pollster with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media. 

Sean Sullivan covers national politics for “The Fix.”
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