- Associated Press - Thursday, August 25, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans’ views on the economy have dimmed this summer, but so far, the growing pessimism doesn’t seem to be taking a toll on President Obama’s re-election prospects.

More people now believe the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction, a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows, and confidence in Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy has slipped from just a few months ago, notably among fellow Democrats.

The survey found that 86 percent of adults see the economy as “poor,” up from 80 percent in June. About half — 49 percent — said it worsened just in the past month. Only 27 percent responded that way in the June survey.

That news can’t be good for a president revving up his re-election campaign, yet there are several hopeful signs for Mr. Obama.


Despite the perception of a weakening recovery, there has been no significant change in the number of people who say he deserves re-election: 47 percent as opposed to 48 percent two months ago. That’s a statistical dead heat with those who favor a change in the White House.

And more Americans still blame former President George W. Bush rather than Mr.  Obama for the economic distress. Some 31 percent put the bulk of the blame on Mr. Obama, while 51 percent point to his Republican predecessor.

“I think Bush had a hand in it, too. Obama’s not totally responsible,” said Mary Parish, 68, of Troy, Tenn. An independent who voted for Republican candidate Sen. John McCain in 2008, she said she doesn’t believe Mr. Obama has what it takes to heal the economy. “He’s a smooth-talking man, but he does not know what he’s doing.”

Mr. Obama also fares better than Congress in the blame department. Some 44 percent put “a lot” or “most” of the blame on Republicans while 36 percent point to congressional Democrats.

The gloomy economic outlook reflected in the poll, which was taken Aug. 18-22, follows a round of bleak government economic reports — on unemployment, the housing market and economic growth that fell below 1 percent for the first six months of the year. It was taken amid heightened worries of a new U.S. recession, fallout from a downgrade of the country’s credit rating and a spreading European debt crisis.

As the public’s outlook on the economy dips, so has approval for the president’s economic stewardship.

More than 6 in 10 — 63 percent — disapprove of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy. Nearly half, or 48 percent, “strongly” disapproved. Approval of his economic performance now stands at just 36 percent, his worst approval rating on the issue in AP-GfK polling.

Among Democrats, 58 percent approve of the president’s handling of the economy, down from 65 percent in June. Among Republicans, approval dipped to 9 percent from 15 percent.

Just 51 percent consider Mr. Obama a strong leader, down from 60 percent in June and 65 percent following the capture and death of Osama bin Laden in May. In June, 85 percent of Democrats in the poll called him a strong leader. Now, the number is down to 76 percent.

Of course, there are limits to what a president can do.

“I think he can nudge it along, but really, it boils down to the private sector,” said Dan Elliott, 42, of Hillsboro, Ill., an independent who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 and said he’ll probably vote for him again.

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