PRINCETON, NJ -- Six in 10 Americans (60%) believe that President Barack Obama has not devoted enough time to economic problems, 33% say he has spent the right amount of time on the issue, and another 5% say he has spent too much time. A majority of Americans are also dissatisfied with Obama's time allocation on healthcare and foreign policy, but views are mixed on whether he has spent too much or too little time on each.
"These results suggest that Americans clearly want Obama to spend more time on the economy."
Of the three issues tested in the Feb. 1-3 Gallup poll, Americans are most likely to say Obama has spent the right amount of time on foreign policy problems, followed by economic problems and then healthcare policy. Still, the majority of Americans who are dissatisfied with Obama's time allocation in each of the three areas have decidedly different views of whether he has spent too much or too little time on each.
Americans clearly believe that Obama has not spent enough time dealing with economic problems; 60% hold this view, while 5% say he has spent too much time on the economy.
A plurality of 41% of Americans say Obama has spent too much time on healthcare policy, while 31% say he has not spent enough time.
The reverse pattern prevails in regard to foreign policy problems, with slightly more Americans saying he has not spent enough time on foreign policy (30%) than say he has spent too much (20%).
It is significant that less than half of Americans believe the president is spending the right amount of time on any of these three policy areas, and it may reflect the general lack of satisfaction with the way things are going in the country, as well as continuing and deep concerns over the economy, and divided opinions on the healthcare reform effort. Additionally, Obama's approval ratings on handling these three issues reflect a sharply divided public, with well less than half approving of his handling of the economy and healthcare.
Looking ahead, these results suggest that Americans clearly want Obama to spend more time on the economy. Beyond that, the directions for Obama from the American people are less clear.
Republicans, independents, and Democrats differ sharply in their views of how Obama has been allocating his time on the three policy issues. In general, as would be expected, Democrats are much more likely than either Republicans or independents to say Obama is spending the right amount of time on each of the three issues.
Strong majorities of Republicans and independents believe that President Obama has not spent enough time dealing with economic problems. This finding is not surprising, given that more than 7 out of 10 Americans at this point volunteer that economic issues are the most important problems facing the nation, and that economic confidence remains quite low.
Democrats are more pleased with Obama, with a little over half saying he has spent about the right amount of time on the economy. But almost all of the rest of Democrats (42%) agree with the majorities of Republicans and independents that Obama has not spent enough time on economic issues.
Republicans have the most lopsided views on Obama and healthcare policy, with almost two-thirds saying he has spent too much time on the issue. These findings from rank-and-file Republicans reflect the oft-expressed sentiment from GOP leadership that Obama's (and congressional Democratic leaders') major push on healthcare reform over the last six months has been too much, too quick.
Independents' views on Obama and healthcare tilt in the same direction as Republicans', but are more mixed overall.
Democrats also have mixed feelings on Obama's time allocation on healthcare policy, but in a different direction. Less than half (47%) of Democrats perceive that Obama has spent the right amount of time on healthcare.
Most of the remaining Democrats (those who disagree with Obama's time allocation on healthcare) say he has not spent enough time on the issue. This likely reflects the frustration on the part of some Democrats that after all of the effort, healthcare reform has been stalled short of the passage of a new bill. It may also reflect Democratic sentiment that the healthcare reform effort is not far-reaching enough in terms of issues like extending healthcare to all citizens or possibly excluding a government-funded "public option" from the plan.
Foreign Policy Problems
Democrats seem to be mostly satisfied with the time Obama has spent on foreign policy problems; two-thirds say he has spent enough time, with the rest split between perceptions that he has spent too much and that he has not spent enough time on foreign policy.
On the other hand, the plurality of Republicans say Obama has not spent enough time on foreign policy, with the rest -- about half -- splitting their views between "right amount" and "too much." The data echo findings over the years showing that Republicans tend to be more worried than the other two partisan groups about terrorism and national security.
Independents have views somewhere in between those of Democrats and Republicans, with the plurality saying Obama's time allocation on foreign policy has been about right, and the rest tilting toward the view that he has not spent enough time on this issue.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,025 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 1-3, 2010. 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.