Most in AP Poll Confident Obama Will Fix Economy

By: AP
By: AP

WASHINGTON – In one of the economy's darkest hours in decades, it looks as if people are taking Barack Obama up on his exhortations for hope and change.

Seven in 10, or 72 percent, voice confidence the president-elect will make the changes needed to revive the stalling economy, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Tuesday. Underscoring how widely the public is counting on its new leader, 44 percent of Republicans joined nearly all Democrats and most independents in expressing that belief.

The poll shows trust in Obama's ability to succeed is even broader, at least for now. Sixty-eight percent said they think when he takes office in January, the new president will be able to enact the policies he pushed during his presidential campaign.

"I don't think one person, the president or otherwise, can fix the problems," said Ryan Anderson, 31, a Democrat from Bloomington, Minn. "But I have strong faith that he'll assemble the right group of individuals to address the problems. I think that's going to be a benchmark of Obama's presidency."

People signaled a willingness to wait on one of the keynotes of his agenda — tax cuts. Only 36 percent said they wanted Obama to make income-tax cuts a top priority when he takes office, and even fewer wanted higher taxes on the rich to be a primary goal.

Instead, 84 percent said strengthening the economy and 80 percent named creating jobs as top-tier priorities. Democrats were a bit likelier than Republicans to say each should be a No. 1 goal.

With Obama ending the GOP's eight-year hold on the White House under President Bush and about to become the first black president, the AP-GfK poll showed three quarters saying the election made them feel hopeful, six in 10 proud and half expressing excitement. Newly elected presidents often embark on a honeymoon period in which the public has highly positive feelings about them.

Democrats were far likelier to feel upbeat, yet such feelings were not limited to them. Half of Republicans said they were hopeful, a third proud and nearly a fifth excited about the election results. Another quarter in the GOP said they were depressed.

"I feel let down by the American people that they were so blind to many things I've seen in him," said Shelli Pierson, 38, a Republican from Elmira, Ore. Pierson she doubts Obama, a four-year senator from Illinois, has enough experience for the presidency and said she still questions his patriotism.

Nine in 10 said Obama's race would have no impact on his ability to get things done.

Though Republicans were more negative about the election results, they were consistently more upbeat than Democrats were in 2004 when their candidate, John Kerry, failed to unseat Bush. Forty-four percent of Democrats said they were angry and half said they were depressed in a November 2004 AP-Ipsos poll, double the GOP's rates this year.

Highlighting anew how the Iraq war has faded as a paramount public concern, only half in Tuesday's AP-GfK poll said they wanted Obama to make a U.S. troop withdrawal a top focus.

The survey also spotlighted the enduring partisan split over the war. Two-thirds of Democrats want a troop withdrawal to be a top Obama priority, compared with just three in 10 Republicans.

In a November 2004 poll before the economy crashed, Iraq and terrorism were most mentioned as the issues they wanted Bush to make his top priority. Until the weakening economy overtook Iraq as the No. 1 problem on the public's mind nearly a year ago, Obama's pledge to set a timetable for withdrawing troops from the war was his highest-profile issue.

Six in 10 cited stabilizing financial institutions and reducing budget deficits as top goals in the AP-GfK survey.

Half said they wanted national health care coverage — another Obama priority — to be a No. 1 concern, with few Republicans agreeing it should be a top goal. Permitting offshore oil drilling, a major GOP campaign issue, drew support as a top priority from just over one-third, mostly Republicans.

Nearly three-quarters — including most Democrats — said they'd like Obama to name some Republicans in his Cabinet, as the Democrat has said he would do.

Most also expressed no problem with the lock Democrats will have on Washington beginning next year. Four in 10 said Democratic control of the White House and Congress will be good for the country while another 2 in 10 said it would make no difference.

Thirty-six percent said the country is moving in the right direction, about double the 17 percent who said so in last month's AP-GfK poll. Reflecting the election results, half of Democrats now see things heading the right way — quadruple their number who said so in October.

Bush and Congress remained mired in awful ratings, with 28 percent approving of the job Bush is doing and 21 percent approving of Congress.

The AP-GfK poll was conducted Nov. 6-10 and involved cell and landline telephone interviews with 1,001 adults. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

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On the Net:

AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com


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