September 27, 2010

Obama Viewed as Doing Better than GOP Leaders in Explaining Vision

Overview

With just over a month to go before the midterm elections, the public by a wide margin says Barack Obama has done a better job than Republican congressional leaders in explaining his plans and vision for the country.

Half (50%) of the public says Obama has done a better job, compared with just 28% who say GOP leaders have done better in laying out their plans and vision, according to the latest Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection poll, sponsored by SHRM, conducted September 23-26 among 1,010 adults.

The poll also finds that the public remains highly critical of Congress, though they judge their own lawmaker’s performance less harshly. Obama’s job performance ratings remain better than those for Congress, but are little changed since June. The public also continues to show limited confidence in the government in Washington to make progress over the next year on the most important problems facing the country.

Fully 83% of Democrats say that Obama has done a better job in explaining his plans and vision for the country, while a smaller percentage of Republicans (64%) say GOP congressional leaders have done better. Independents, by a 48% to 26% margin, say Obama has done the better job of explaining his vision. Among those younger than 30, 61% say Obama has done better in explaining his plans and vision; that compares with about half of those in older age groups.

Obama Maintains Better Performance Ratings than Congress

Job performance ratings for Obama and for Congress have fluctuated only slightly through much of this year. Currently, nearly four-in-ten say Obama’s performance has been either excellent (10%) or good (28%), while 57% rate it as only fair (30%) or poor (27%).

Eight-in-ten rate the performance of Congress as only fair (35%) or poor (45%); 13% rate it as excellent (1%) or good (12%). In both cases, the numbers are little changed since June.

When people are asked to rate the performance of their own lawmaker, the numbers are more positive than for Congress as a whole – 28% say excellent (3%) or good (25%), while 56% say only fair (36%) or poor (20%).

Confidence in Government Remains Low

Just 10% of Americans say they have a lot of confidence in the federal government to make progress over the next year on the most important problems facing the country; another 34% say they have some confidence. More than half of the public continues to say they have not much (33%) or no confidence at all (20%) that the government in Washington will make progress over the next year. Those numbers largely mirror responses given in May and June.

There is little change among partisans or independents since June. Currently, 73% of Republicans say they have not much (44%) or no confidence (28%) at all that the government will make progress over the next year; 76% said this in June. Nearly a quarter (24%) say they have a lot (3%) or some confidence (21%) that the government will make progress; 23% said this in June.

Among Democrats, about two-thirds (66%) express a lot (18%) or some confidence (49%) the government will make progress, not much different from the 60% that said this in June. About three-in-ten (31%) express not much (25%) or no confidence (7%); 37% said this in June.

Among independents, 41% say they have a lot (8%) or some confidence (33%) that progress can be made, about the same as the 37% that said this in June. Nearly six-in-ten (56%) express not much (31%) or no confidence at all (24%). That number stood at 60% in June.

FAMILIARITY BREEDS MORE POSITIVE VIEWS OF CONGRESSIONAL INCUMBENTS

In another sign of the broad anti-incumbent sentiment that has been evident this election year, twice as many Americans (56%) say their own representative in the House has done only a fair or poor job than say he or she has done an excellent or good job (28%).

Still, that is better than the ratings for Congress generally, whose “poor” ratings outnumber excellent or good evaluations by nearly four to one (45% to 13%). Moreover, people give their own House representative much better marks for specific aspects of their job performance – including having good judgment, the ability to bring change, being in touch with people in the district and bringing home projects and money.

Notably, those who say they are familiar with what their congressman stands for (46% of the public) give their representatives higher job ratings than do those who are less familiar with their congressman’s stances.

The latest Pew Research/National Journal Congressional Connection poll, sponsored by SHRM, conducted September 23-26 among 1,010 adults, finds that 48% say their representative has good judgment and experience on the issues; just 32% say that statement does not describe their representative.

Opinions about other dimensions of incumbents’ job performance are more divided. Still, roughly four-in-ten (43%) each say their representative is the kind of person who can bring change to Washington, is in touch with the people of their district (43%) and does a good job of bringing government projects and money to their district (42%).
Nearly third of Americans (32%) say that their representative “has been in Washington, D.C. too long.” By contrast, 49% say that their congressman has not been in office for too long.

Familiarity with Representatives’ Positions

Overall, 46% say they feel like they know what their congressional representative stands for very (14%) or somewhat well (32%); about as many (51%) say they know their representative’s positions not too well (28%) or not at all well (23%). About one-in-five (18%) say they have actually met their own representative or shaken their hands.

Roughly half of both Republicans (54%) and Democrats (50%) say they are at least somewhat familiar with their representative’s positions; by comparison, just 38% of independents say they are at least somewhat familiar with their congressman’s positions.

People who have some familiarity with what their representative stands for have more positive views of their job performance. About four-in-ten (42%) of those who know what their representative stands for say he or she does an excellent or good job, compared with just 18% of those who are less familiar with what they stand for.

Similarly, 60% of those who have some familiarity with their representative’s positions say their congressman is in touch with the people of their district; fewer than half as many (28%) of those less familiar with what their representative stands for say their lawmaker is in touch with constituents. People familiar with what their representative stands for also are more likely to say they can bring about change, have good judgment and do a good job of bringing home projects. And while 59% of those who know what their representative stands for say they have not been in Washington too long, 41% of those less familiar with their congressman’s positions agree.

Republicans and independents give their own representatives more negative job ratings than do Democrats. Majorities of Republicans (62%) and independents (59%) say their own representative has done only a fair or poor job; just 26% of Republicans and 24% of independents say
their congressman has done an excellent or good job. Among Democrats, the balance of opinion is much closer – 49% say their representative has done only fair or poor, while 41% rate their job performance as excellent or good.

Yet there are little or no differences in the way that Republicans and Democrats view their representative’s performance in several specific areas – though independents tend to be more critical. For example about half of Democrats (50%) and Republicans (47%) say their representative is in touch with their district, compared with 36% of independents.

However, just 41% of Republicans say their representative can bring about change in Washington D.C. compared with 53% of Democrats; just 36% of independents say their lawmaker can bring change to the capital.