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A year in, Obama splits the country almost exactly in two; and nearly half now say he's too liberal

January 12, 2010 |  4:54 pm

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A week from the first anniversary of his twice taking the presidential oath of office with a promise of change and renewed national unity, Barack Obama has split the country.

It's pretty much an even split, too.

Forty-eight percent of Americans consider the Democrat's presidency a failure so far; 47% call it a success.

On Nov. 4, 2008, Americans gave Obama and what's-his-name-the-long-serving-Delaware-senator nearly 68% of the nation's electoral votes. They gave them 56% of the states and nearly 53% of the popular vote. (Not to mention overwhelming control of both houses of Congress.)

Two weeks into his new job, Obama's job approval rating was at its peak -- 76%.

Since then, as he's faced economic challenges, a disappointing economic stimulus program, stubbornly high unemployment and the controversies surrounding his....

...relentless rhetoric and drive for a healthcare bill, with a couple of monthly exceptions Obama's approval has been trending downward -- 67%, 64%, 66%, 63%, 62%, 61%, 56%, 53%, 58%, 55% and 55% just before Thanksgiving.  

His worst standing -- 48% -- came in early December during the heated congressional healthcare debate but before the blessedly botched bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Poll of 1,021 adult Americans out this afternoon finds that after 357 days in the Oval Office, a bare majority -- 51% -- approve of Obama's job performance, down 3 points from December. Those who disapprove now stand at 48%, up four points from December.

Every president claims they don't watch the polls; right, and the Detroit Lions still have a Super Bowl shot.

But presidential allies and opponents do watch the polls, very closely, to see which way the winds are blowing on which issue and to take their own advantage or political cover from whatever breezes are detectable, especially in this crucial midterm election year that has already seen one Democratic representative switch to the GOP side.

Well, Obama's "strongly approve" numbers have been fading, now at 26%, down from 40% a year ago. While his "strongly disapprove" numbers have been growing, now at 36%, up from 19%.

CNN polling director Keating Holland notes the economy rates No. 1 by far on the American mind now (though terrorism and the deficit are creeping up). Hence Obama's post-holiday attention to jobs and evil bankers. There's work to do; Holland notes a majority of Americans disapprove of Obama's job performance on every economic issue tested.

"Only 44% approve of how Obama is handling the economy," Holland reports. "Just 4 in 10 give him a thumbs-up on healthcare and his approval rating on the federal deficit has plunged to 36%. Those are three of the four most important issues on the public's mind today."

And with economic and deficit concerns on the public's mind, Holland offers an ominous warning to the Obama White House. "The president's ratings also suffer from the growing perception that he is too liberal -- 46% feel that way today, up 10 points from March."

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Pete Souza / White House

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