PRINCETON, NJ -- President Barack Obama may have failed to achieve much bipartisan agreement on his major policies since he took office, but Americans give him credit for trying. Sixty percent say Obama has made a sincere effort to work with Republicans, down from prior measurements but still the majority view.
"Americans are much less likely to believe members of Congress in either party are trying to work with the other side than to believe Obama is."
Americans were much more optimistic about Obama's reaching across the aisle immediately after his election last fall, when 80% thought he would make a sincere effort to work with Republicans. After he took office, around the 100-day mark of his presidency, 66% thought he was making such an effort. Now, 60% believe he is acting in a bipartisan manner, according to the Sept. 11-13 USA Today/Gallup poll.
Democrats and Republicans diverge in their views of Obama's efforts. Ninety percent of Democrats believe Obama is attempting to work with congressional Republicans; 27% of rank-and-file Republicans agree. More than half of independents, 56%, view Obama as making a concerted effort toward bipartisanship.
Americans are much less likely to believe members of Congress in either party are trying to work with the other side than to believe Obama is. Thirty-three percent say the Republicans in Congress are making a sincere effort to work with Obama and the Democrats in Congress. Slightly more, 38%, believe the Democrats in Congress are trying to cooperate with the Republicans.
The trend lines in ratings of both congressional parties are similar, with a great deal of optimism about bipartisanship after last November's election -- optimism that diminished greatly several months into the current session of Congress.
Less than half of Republicans (45%), Democrats (21%), and independents (33%) think the Republicans in Congress are trying hard to work with Obama and the Democrats in Congress, with rank-and-file Republicans most likely to believe this.
Most Democrats, 67%, think their party's congressional delegation is behaving in a bipartisan manner. But relatively small proportions of independents (29%) and Republicans (14%) agree.
Earlier this year, Congress passed President Obama's economic stimulus plan with no House Republicans and only three Senate Republicans (one of whom later switched his party allegiance to the Democrats) voting for it. And it is unclear whether any Republicans in either chamber will support healthcare reform legislation that Obama backs and that is now working its way through Congress. Even so, most Americans give Obama credit for trying to be bipartisan even if the results of those efforts are not necessarily apparent.
That may stem from the public's recognizing some of the specific actions Obama has taken, such as meeting with Republican leaders about the stimulus bill and expressing a willingness to forgo elements of healthcare reform most distasteful to Republicans. It may also be due to a "halo effect" from positive feelings toward Obama in general -- something that does not apply to members of Congress at this time.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,030 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Sept. 11-13, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.