January 19, 2012

Obama: Weak Job Ratings, But Positive Personal Image

Section 4: Favorability of Obamas, Clinton, Biden

Barack Obama’s favorability rating has slipped over the course of his first three years in office. But Michelle Obama continues to be viewed very positively. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of the first lady while just 21% have an unfavorable opinion. These views have changed little over the past year and are comparable to public evaluations when she became first lady roughly three years ago.

Currently, 51% say they have a favorable view of Barack Obama while 45% have an unfavorable view. Impressions of the president today are somewhat more negative than they were earlier this year, when he had a 58% favorability rating, but are similar to those he received on the eve of the 2010 midterm elections.

Nine-in-ten Democrats have a favorable view of the first lady, as do 61% of independents. Republicans are more divided: 49% have a favorable impression while 40% have an unfavorable view of the first lady.

Among Republicans there are strong differences in opinion by ideology. Moderate and liberal Republicans view Michelle Obama favorably by a 62% to 25% margin. Conservative Republicans are just as likely to view the first lady unfavorably (46%) as favorably (44%). Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who agree with the Tea Party movement, just 38% view Michelle Obama favorably while 46% have an unfavorable opinion.

Michelle Obama is viewed more favorably by women than men (71% vs. 62%). She also receives higher favorability ratings among young people than among those 50 and older (71% vs. 62%). Nearly all of non-Hispanic blacks (95%) view her favorably, compared with 74% of Hispanics and 60% of non-Hispanic whites.

Although Barack Obama’s ratings are more negative than the first lady’s, the president remains very popular among many of the groups that were critical to his election in 2008: Democrats (86% favorable), liberals (79%), African Americans (92%) and Hispanics (64%). But among young people – who voted for him by a two-to-one margin in 2008 – Obama’s favorable rating is currently no higher than the national average (53%).

Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton

Three years into Joe Biden’s term as vice president, the public expresses more mixed views of him than they did in his first year of office. Roughly as many say they have a favorable opinion of Biden (38%) as say they have an unfavorable opinion (41%). In November 2009, half (50%) expressed a favorable view of Biden while 29% viewed him unfavorably.

Biden’s favorable ratings have decreased across party lines. Currently, 64% of Democrats have a favorable opinion of the vice president, down from 77% in November 2009. The share of Republicans who have an unfavorable opinion of Biden has grown from 53% to 66% over the same time period.

Vice President Biden’s standing among independents has reversed over the past two years. In November 2009, more viewed him favorably than unfavorably by a 45% to 30% margin. Today, more view him unfavorably than favorably by almost exactly the same ratio (31% favorable, 43% unfavorable).

The public continues to view Hillary Clinton positively. Fully 62% have a favorable opinion of the current Secretary of State while half as many have an unfavorable opinion (31%). These numbers are little changed from a year ago, and Clinton has received positive favorability ratings for the past three years since she became Secretary of State. Both Democrats and independents overwhelmingly view her favorably – 82% and 60% respectively. Among Republicans, 41% view Clinton favorably and 52% view her unfavorably.

Cite this publication: “Obama: Weak Job Ratings, But Positive Personal Image.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (January 19, 2012) http://www.people-press.org/2012/01/19/obama-begins-year-four-with-weak-job-ratings-but-positive-personal-image/, accessed on July 23, 2014.