Politics & Government

Obama v. Limbaugh: Poll compares foes' approval ratings


WASHINGTON — The deepening recession is taking a slight toll on President Barack Obama's standing, but he's still twice as popular as archnemesis Rush Limbaugh, according to a new McClatchy-Ipsos poll.

The survey found that 65 percent of Americans approve of the way Obama is doing his job roughly 50 days into his presidency. That was down slightly from 69 percent a month ago.

At the same time, 29 percent disapprove of Obama's performance, a small increase from 26 percent a month ago. The poll of 1,070 adults taken last Thursday through Monday has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Still, the president's numbers remain high, roughly twice as high as his predecessor's in his final year in office and more than twice as high as those for Limbaugh, the right-wing radio talk-show host.

The poll found 30 percent of Americans with favorable opinions of Limbaugh, and 46 percent with unfavorable opinions. A solid 33 percent of all Americans have "very unfavorable" opinions of the talk show host.

The numbers help explain why Obama and his team relish a pitched battle with Limbaugh, a polarizing figure who's enormously popular with his fans but deeply unpopular with even more people.

The White House jumped on Limbaugh after he said that he wanted the president to fail in achieving his agenda. The White House was trying to force other Republicans either to stand with the controversial Limbaugh at the risk of alienating other Americans or to rebuke him, angering his listeners and him.

The most prominent victim was Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who criticized Limbaugh, then apologized.

As partisan lines harden over Obama's agenda and presidency, Democrats and Republicans tend to see the economy and him through those familiar partisan lenses, and low support among Republicans pulls down the president's overall numbers.

Obama's approval rating, for example, is 89 percent among Democrats and 25 percent among Republicans. Among independents, his approval rating is 58 percent.

Another reason that the president lost a little ground could be an uptick in pessimism about the economy.

The survey found 57 percent saying the worst is yet to come on the economy, up from 54 percent a month ago. Just 3 percent said they thought the economy had "turned the corner" toward better times, down from 7 percent.

Those with more to lose are more pessimistic: Among those who make more than $50,000 a year, 66 percent think that things will continue to get worse. Among those who earn less than that, 50 percent think that things will get worse.

There was, however, a marginal increase in the number of people who think that the country is headed in the right direction, from 42 percent to 44 percent.

Partisan differences also could be influencing that, as 62 percent of Democrats think that the country is headed in the right direction now, while just 20 percent of Republicans think so.

METHODOLOGY -- These are some of the findings of a McClatchy-Ipsos poll conducted last Thursday through Monday. For the survey, Ipsos interviewed a nationally representative, randomly selected sample of 1,070 people 18 and older across the United States. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within 3.04 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult population in the U.S. been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including coverage error and measurement error. These data were weighted to ensure that the sample's composition reflects that of the U.S. population according to U.S. Census figures. Respondents had the option of being interviewed in English or Spanish.


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