July 26, 2010

Obama’s Policies Seen as Better than Bush’s for Improving the Economy

Overview

While most Americans disapprove of Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, far more think his administration’s policies – rather than those of the Bush administration – would do more to improve economic conditions over the next few years. As Congress gears up for debate over the tax cuts passed when Bush was president, the public is divided, with roughly equal numbers in favor of keeping all of Bush’s tax cuts, repealing only those for wealthy Americans, or scrapping them entirely.

In the latest Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, sponsored by SHRM, conducted July 22-25 among 1,004 adults, 46% say that following the policies of Obama administration would do more to help the economy improve in the next few years, while 29% say that following the Bush administration’s policies would do more to help. Nearly one-in-five (17%) volunteer that neither administration’s policies would help.

More than eight-in-ten Democrats (84%) say the Obama administration’s policies would do more to improve the economy; fewer Republicans (63%) say the same about the Bush administration’s policies (84% vs. 63%). More independents see Obama’s policies than Bush’s policies helping (by 43% to 20%); a sizable minority (27%) of independents say neither administration’s policies would help.

While Obama’s policies generally are viewed more positively than are Bush’s, whites and older Americans are divided on this issue. About as many non-Hispanic whites say following the Bush administration’s economic policies (38%) as Obama’s policies (34%) would improve the economy in coming years; this also is the case among those 65 and older (38% Bush’s policies, 40% Obama’s policies).

Divided Over Bush’s Tax Cuts

The survey finds a continuing three-way divide in opinions about Bush’s tax cuts: 31% say all of the tax cuts passed when Bush was president should be repealed; 30% say all of the tax cuts should all remain in place; 27% say tax cuts for the wealthy should be repealed, while others should be maintained.

This represents a modest change from mid-October 2008, when a plurality (37%) favored a repeal of tax cuts for the wealthy, while keeping other tax cuts in place. At that time, 25% supported
keeping all of Bush’s tax cuts while the same percentage favored eliminating all of the tax cuts.

In the new survey, Democrats are divided between repealing all of the tax cuts (42%) or just the tax cuts for the wealthy (36%); just 11% say that all the tax cuts should remain in place. About half of Republicans (52%) support keeping all of Bush’s tax cuts. About a third of independents (32%) favor a total repeal of Bush’s tax cuts, while comparable numbers favor repealing the tax cuts for the wealthy (27%) and ending them entirely (27%).

There also are race, age and income differences in opinions on what to do about Bush’s tax cuts. More than twice as many non-Hispanic African Americans (58%) as non-Hispanic whites (27%) favor repealing all of the tax cuts passed during Bush’s presidency.

LOW RATINGS FOR CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS, POOR MARKS FOR BOTH PARTIES

Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle continue to receive negative assessments from the public. Today, just a third (33%) approves of the Republican congressional leadership; about the same number (35%) approves of the Democratic leadership. While these evaluations have changed little in recent months, approval ratings for Democratic leaders are now far lower than they were in early 2009. Ratings for Republican leaders have shown less change over this period.

The latest Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll, sponsored by SHRM, conducted July 22-25 among 1,004 adults, finds that slightly more Democrats approve of the performance of their party’s congressional leaders than did so last month (74% now, 65% then). Just a quarter of independents (25%) and 8% of Republicans approve of the job Democratic congressional leaders are doing, which is little changed from June.

Republicans are less positive than Democrats about their party’s leaders. Six-in-ten Republicans (60%) say they approve of the way GOP leaders are handling their jobs. Independents give about the same job approval ratings to Republican congressional leaders (26%) as Democratic leaders (25%). Just 15% of Democrats approve of the job GOP leaders are doing.

Both Parties Doing Poor Job Working Together, Offering Solutions

The public also has negative impressions of how the two major parties are doing on several specific dimensions. Majorities say both the Democratic Party and Republican Party have done poor or very poor jobs of offering solutions to the important problems facing the nation, putting the country’s interests ahead of their own political interests and working with members of the other party in Washington to get things done.

Although these evaluations are low for both Republicans and Democrats, the GOP has made small gains on all three dimensions since April 2006. The public is now more likely to say the Republican party is offering solutions (up six points), putting the country’s interests ahead of its political interests (up seven points) and working with Democrats to get things done (up five points). Democratic ratings have remained relatively unchanged, although more now say the Democratic Party is working with Republicans to get things done (38% today, compared to 31% in 2006).

Fully 79% of Democrats say their party has done a good or very good job of offering solutions to the nation’s important problems; just 19% say they have done poor or very poor in this regard. Republican are somewhat less positive about their party’s performance in offering solutions to problems. About six-in-ten (63%) give their party positive ratings, compared with 32% who view their job negatively. Similar patterns are evident in assessments of whether the parties prioritize the nation’s interests over political interests and whether the parties are working together. Independents give both parties similar marks on each of these dimensions.

Cite this publication: “Obama’s Policies Seen as Better than Bush’s for Improving the Economy.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (July 26, 2010) http://www.people-press.org/2010/07/26/obamas-policies-seen-as-better-than-bushs-for-improving-the-economy/, accessed on July 22, 2014.