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More Americans View Obama Positively on Key Issues

More Americans View Obama Positively on Key Issues

by Jim Norman
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • 45% now say Obama doing good job of making America prosperous
  • 48% say he is doing good job on energy, up from 39% in 2015
  • 54% say good job on environment, slight boost from 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More Americans say President Barack Obama is doing a good job of improving the nation's energy policy (48%) and making America prosperous (45%) than at most points in his presidency. On another key measure of his presidency, 54% say Obama is doing a good job of protecting the nation's environment, a slight boost from last year but mostly in line with his recent readings.

Trend: Views of Obama Improve on Key Measures

In Obama's final year in office, U.S. adults are still more likely to say he is doing a poor job (49%) rather than a good job (45%) of making America prosperous, but the margin has shrunk to four points from 14 points last year. The percentages saying Obama is doing a good job on the environment, energy and the economy are clustered more closely than they have been in any previous year of his presidency. The improvement on all three from last year mirrors the improvement in Obama's overall job approval rating, now the best it has been since 2013.

In a Gallup poll conducted March 5-8, 2009, during the first weeks of Obama's presidency, 79% of Americans said they thought he would do a good job on the environment, 72% said he would do a good job with energy policy and 61% said he would do a good job of making America prosperous.

Environment, Energy, Economy All Made Headlines in 2015

The issues of prosperity, energy and the environment all made major news in the past year, and the White House claims major accomplishments in all three areas.

Making America Prosperous: That Obama's rating on making America prosperous is higher than it was last year but still not a majority reflects the mix of good and bad news on the nation's economic front. On the positive side, unemployment dropped from 5.5% in February 2015 to 4.9% last month. On the negative side, the Dow Jones industrial average was down to 16,899 on March 2 from 18,289 a year earlier. A drop of more than 25% in gasoline prices over the past 12 months has been good news for most consumers but very bad news for some investors and workers.

Obama's effort to tout low unemployment and his trade deal with 12 Pacific Rim nations as economic successes have clearly resonated with some of the public. But this year's presidential campaign is presenting significant obstacles to Obama's assertions, with major candidates from both parties attacking the trade deal and claiming the economy is failing most Americans.

Improving U.S. Energy Policy: The drop in gas prices was accompanied by a plethora of stories on the "oil glut" that caused the lower prices. Americans are now less concerned about the possibility of a critical energy shortage and more likely than in recent years to think protection of the environment should take precedence over developing energy supplies. In January, Obama pushed strongly during his final State of the Union address for cutbacks in "dirty energy" such as oil and coal; instead, he promoted major investments in "clean energy." Obama has made strides in public opinion over the past year on energy policy, with the percentage saying he is doing a good job increasing from 39% to 48% and thereby gaining approval from the bulk of Americans.

Protecting the Environment: Throughout his time as president, Obama has sounded warnings about the need to combat climate change, and his administration has consistently pushed programs to invest in "clean energy." A White House list of his top 10 accomplishments in 2015 includes the Paris Agreement on climate change that 195 nations adopted in December. Americans' views of Obama's record on protecting the environment have varied little over the past seven years, with the percentage saying he is doing a good job reaching a high of 56% in 2012 and a low of 51% in 2014.

Democrats' Support More Solid Than Republicans' Opposition

Almost identical percentages of Democrats give Obama credit for doing a good job on the environment (81%), prosperity (81%) and energy (80%). Only small minorities of Republicans say he is doing a good job on the three, with more variation than among Democrats: 27% of Republicans say he is doing a good job on the environment, 18% on energy, 10% on prosperity.

Americans Who Say President Obama Is Doing a "Good Job" on Three Key Issues, by Party
Do you think Barack Obama is doing a good job or a poor job in handling each of the following issues as president?
Democrats% Independents% Republicans%
Protecting the nation's environment 81 48 27
Improving the nation's energy policy 80 42 18
Making America prosperous 81 38 10
Gallup, March 2-6, 2016

Combining results across the three items reveals that 70% of Democrats say Obama is doing a good job in all three areas. In contrast, 57% of Republicans say he is doing a poor job on all three.

On two of the measures -- protecting the environment and making America prosperous -- Democrats' ratings improved while Republicans' were stagnant over the past year. Democrats' ratings increased by six points on the environment and eight points on making America prosperous. Ratings on improving energy policy increased for both Republicans (five points) and Democrats (12 points).

Bottom Line

Obama has made some headway in gaining Americans' approval on his handling of the economy and energy policy over the past year, mostly because Democrats are viewing his presidency more favorably as Americans prepare to choose his successor. However, he is still locked into an enduring partisan split that seems to leave little room for significant changes in views of his presidency. His overall approval rating has rarely dipped below 40% or risen above 55%, and the percentage of the public saying he has done a good job on energy, prosperity or the environment has never been lower than 36% (prosperity) or higher than 56% (environment). By comparison, Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, saw greater extremes: 63% said Bush was doing a good job on prosperity five months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and only 23% in 2008 said he was doing a good job on energy.


Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 2-6, 2016, with a random sample of 1,019 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, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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