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Americans See Room for Improvement in Obama's Leadership

Americans See Room for Improvement in Obama's Leadership

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans see room for improvement in several aspects of President Barack Obama's leadership at the halfway mark of his term. Their broadest criticism is directed at the president's record of bringing about changes the country needs -- a central theme of his 2008 election campaign -- with 70% saying he needs to do a better job of this.

January 2011: Satisfaction With President Barack Obama's Leadership

Majorities of Americans also say Obama could do a better job of putting the country's interests ahead of his own political interests, understanding the problems Americans face in their daily lives, and being a strong and decisive leader. A large majority, however, are satisfied with his display of strong moral character.

Democrats are generally pleased with Obama's performance in all five areas tested in the Jan. 14-16 USA Today/Gallup poll, although the percentage satisfied ranges from 53% for bringing about needed change to 84% for having strong moral character. By contrast, fewer than half of Republicans are satisfied with Obama on any of the dimensions.

The opinions of independents mirror those of the public at large. Most are satisfied with Obama's moral character, while majorities believe he can improve in the four other areas.

January 2011: Satisfaction With President Barack Obama's Leadership, by Party ID

The same poll finds 47% of Americans approving of the job Obama is doing as president and 49% disapproving. Thus, many Americans who think Obama's leadership in several areas could be better -- particularly with respect to bringing about change -- nevertheless approve of his overall job performance. Similarly, many who are satisfied with his display of strong moral character simultaneously disapprove of his job performance.

Bottom Line

In his remarks on Jan. 12 at an Arizona memorial service for victims of the recent shootings in Tucson, President Obama expressed hope that the political debates prompted by the tragedy not be fought "on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness," and called for greater civility in public discourse, more generally.

The speech may have reinforced Americans' perceptions of Obama as a man of strong moral character. However, 59% still think he could do a better job of putting the country's interests ahead of politics. They also believe he could do more to bring about the changes the country needs and to show greater understanding of the problems average Americans face -- perhaps by showing stronger, more decisive leadership. These are the directives from Americans to their president as he prepares his State of the Union address and begins to assemble his campaign team for re-election in 2012.

Survey Methods

Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 14-16, 2011, with a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

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 landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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