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Poll shows Obama 2.0 less popular than the inaugural version

March 16, 2009 |  5:50 pm

Democrat Barack Obama's inauguration day at the US Capitol January 20, 2009

Apparently many Americans liked the Barack Obama they were so excited to see inaugurated eight weeks ago much more than the second version of the same man emerging with the rollout of his ambitious liberal legislative agenda.

A new poll of 1,308 Americans taken March 9-12 and published today by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows that for the first time the chief executive's approval dipped below 60% -- from 64% early last month to 59% now, while his disapproval rating jumped 65% from 17% to 26% in the same time frame.

Approvals of new presidents at this stage have historically been in the low to mid-60s, with Jimmy Carter at 71% and Ronald Reagan at 55%.

Newly sworn in Democratic president Barack Obama gives his inaugural speech January 20, 2009

And some ominous statistical evidence emerged of erosion among his own Democratic supporters over Obama's decision to send more U.S. troops into Afghanistan.

Although the public seems to believe the Democrat is doing all he can to handle the economic situation, the addition of his ambitious healthcare, education and other legislative priorities has cost him support among independents and conservatives.

And the entire polling body shows markedly mixed feelings over the different programs.

They like his idea to reduce taxes on lower- and middle-income families (82%) and his plans to increase spending on roads and infrastructure repairs (77%). 

But Obama's support has waned over adding taxes to even upper-income recipients of Medicare drug benefits (52% disapprove), helping homeowners facing foreclosure (now evenly split 46-46) and government loans to GM and Chrysler (63% now disapprove).

In the poll a minority (48%) approved of Obama's $700-billion financial institution bailout with disapproval now at 40%. And that was before the current kerfuffle over bonuses to AIG employees with federal bailout money. Mark Silva has some more numbers here in the Swamp.

Despite the economic turmoil of recent months, fully 70% still say they're better off in a free market economy even with its severe ups and downs, while 54% are willing to accept more temporary government involvement at this time.

And another warning sign for Obama over his oft-promised ramp-up of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, which he calls the real central front in the war on terrorism: Only 53% overall approve of his recent decision to dispatch an additional 17,000 American soldiers there; 38% disapprove.

But interestingly, only a minority of Obama's own Democrats support the decision (49% vs. 43% disapprove.) The president's support in that area actually comes more from Republicans with 63% approving and only 27% disapproving. Even independents support the military move (55% to 40%) more than do Democrats.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credits: Justin Lane / EPA (Inauguration ceremony music); Associated Press.