Obama finds edge over Republicans, poll

WASHINGTON: Despite deepening political disaffection and intensified distress about the economy, President Obama enjoys an edge over Republicans in the battle for public support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

A report published in the New York Times found that Americans blame former President George W. Bush, Wall Street and Congress much more than they do Mr. Obama for the nation’s economic problems.

They credit Mr. Obama more than Republicans with making an effort at bipartisanship, and they back the White House’s policies on a variety of disputed issues.

The poll suggests that both parties face a toxic environment as they prepare for the elections in November. Public disapproval of Congress is at a historic high, and huge numbers of Americans think Congress is beholden to special interests.

The percentage of Americans who approve of Mr. Obama’s job performance, 46 per cent, is as low as it has been since he took office.

For all the erosion in support for Mr. Obama, Americans say he better understands their needs and problems and has made more of an effort to be bipartisan than Congressional Republicans, the poll found.

“It feels like an attempt to sabotage the majority and to regain control of power rather than working on a compromise,” John Smith, a Republican from Greenville, S.C., said of his party after participating in the poll.

Americans say that Mr. Obama is far less likely to favor special interests over the American people than Congress.

Mr. Obama and his party continue to have an edge over Republicans on which party would do better in dealing with health care and job creation. But Republicans have gained an edge on handling of the economy.

He gets low marks for his handling of the deficit and the economy.

And the fact that 56 per cent of respondents think that Mr. Obama does not have a plan to create jobs is a distressing bit of news for a White House that in recent weeks had made an intensive effort to present Mr. Obama as concerned with the economy.

But the public backs other elements of Mr. Obama’s agenda. By a two-to-one ratio, Americans support an end to tax cuts for the wealthy, and Americans favor allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

The poll found that 51 per cent of Americans now view the Democratic Party unfavorably, nearly matching the highest in the history of the Times/CBS News poll.

At the same time, 57 per cent have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,084 adults was taken from Feb. 5 through 10 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all adults.

The poll found substantial pessimism: 62 per cent of respondents said the country was heading in the wrong direction. And 70 per cent of those polled said they thought it was going to take two years or longer for the effects of the recession that technically ended last year to fade away.

More than half of respondents said that Mr. Obama had not spent enough time trying to fix the economy, and nearly half said he had spent too much time trying to pass a health care bill.

He scored better on other measures, particularly in comparison with Republicans; 60 per cent said the president understood their problems, compared with 42 per cent who said the same thing about Congressional Democrats and 35 per cent for Congressional Republicans.

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