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Obama's Image as "Strong and Decisive Leader" Takes a Hit

Obama's Image as "Strong and Decisive Leader" Takes a Hit

PRINCETON, NJ -- After six messy weeks -- defined chiefly by the partial government shutdown and troubled rollout of the federal government's healthcare exchange website -- President Barack Obama's reputation with the American public has faltered in some ways, but not in others. Most notably, for the first time in his presidency, fewer than half of Americans, 47%, say Obama is a "strong and decisive leader," down six percentage points since September.

Trend: Perceptions of President Obama as a "Strong and Decisive Leader"

Similarly, the share of Americans who view Obama as "honest and trustworthy" has dipped five points. Exactly half of Americans still consider Obama honest and trustworthy, but this is down from 55% in September and 60% in mid-2012 as Obama was heading toward re-election.

Trend: Perceptions of President Obama as "Honest and Trustworthy"

Americans' confidence in their chief executive to manage the government has also waned five points since September, to 42%. However, this level is similar to 44% in June and 45% in June 2012.

Characteristics and Qualities of Barack Obama -- Selected Trend

On the positive side for Obama, more than half of Americans -- 54% -- continue to believe he appreciates the problems Americans face in their daily lives, down only two points since September. And while far fewer than half -- 38% -- say he has a clear plan for solving the country's problems, this is typical for Obama, as well as for most recent presidents.

These results are based on a Gallup poll conducted Nov. 7-10.

Key Issue Ratings Hold Steady

In contrast to Americans' ratings of Obama's personal characteristics, their ratings of the job he is doing in handling the economy, foreign affairs, and healthcare policy are each down compared with early September, but not significantly.

This may be the best Obama could hope for in light of recent events and the decline in Americans' perceptions of him as a strong and decisive leader. Still, the 37% approval for healthcare and 39% for the economy and foreign affairs are hardly ringing endorsements, the last of which comes at a time when the Obama administration is conducting high-profile negotiations with America's longtime adversary, Iran, in an attempt to prevent that nation from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Trend: How Americans View Barack Obama's Handling of Specific Issues

Notably, all of these issue approval ratings are worse than Obama's overall job approval rating, which was 43% in the same poll, and has averaged 41% during the last two weeks of Gallup Daily tracking.

Bottom Line

Gallup measures that track the way Americans see Obama personally, and as the nation's chief executive officer, help document how recent events have affected the president's image.

Despite the embarrassing failure of the government's healthcare exchange website, Obama's job approval ratings for his handling of key areas of the government, most notably the economy and healthcare policy, are largely unchanged. On character dimensions, Obama does not receive high ratings for his perceived managerial skill or policy ideas, but these figures have been anemic for some time now, and show little change since September.

Of more concern for the White House, Obama's once-positive image as a strong and decisive leader has suffered, in addition to his longtime reputation for being honest and trustworthy. Of these, the decline in Obama's honesty rating may be the most noteworthy because Gallup has previously found that this dimension is one of the most important drivers of his overall job approval. Thus, the recent controversy over whether the president honestly described Americans' ability to retain their own healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act could have the most significant implications for his presidency.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 7-10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,039 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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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