2008 record      

 

President Obama continues to enjoy strong approval ratings but his reputation has taken a few dents after just seven weeks in office, an IBD/TIPP poll found.

The IBD/TIPP Presidential Leadership Index fell to 65.4 in March from 71 in February, Obama's first reading. He has majority support across all age, income and regional groups.

Other polls have put his numbers at a similar level. A late February Gallup poll gave Obama a 67% approval rating.

Those are impressive numbers. But not that unusual. President Bush had a 64.6 rating in March 2001, IBD/TIPP poll data show.

The nation's economic woes have not hurt its new chief executive. Though there are some signs of worry over the direction of his political agenda, solid majorities of voters seem willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Despite criticism from Republicans and a few Democratic lawmakers about his stimulus package and planned spending and tax hikes, Americans are less gloomy about federal economic politics, according to the IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index for March. The gauge will be released Tuesday.

Still, the poll does show hairline cracks in Obama's coalition. He's seen a big drop in his support from the investor class, going from 69.9 in February to 58.5 today.

Obama plans to raise taxes on the wealthy as well as lift top rates on capital gains and dividends. The S&P 500 has dived 22.2% since Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner unveiled a much-panned financial rescue plan that was short on details on Feb. 10.

Among noninvestors, he has actually improved, going from 73.9 last month to 74.2 this month.

Obama's support among middle-income voters has slipped noticeably too. Last month, people earning $50,000-$75,000 gave him a whopping 73.3 rating. That has dropped to 59.9.

While the president continues to get near-unanimous - 90.4% - support from Democrats, he has lost ground among independents, falling to 63.9 from 72.9 last month.

Many Republicans that once were optimistic about an Obama administration have had second thoughts too. His approval there dropped from 41.3 to 33.1.

Karlyn Bowman, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said his numbers are impressive though not unusual for a president this early in his term.

"He (Obama) has got an opportunity. He's got breathing room," Bowman said. "But gravity is starting to pull him down."

One reason to push sweeping health care reforms and other policy changes right away is to take advantage of Obama's still-sky-high popularity.

Among income groups, Obama draws his strongest support from the poor and the well-off. Those making under $30,000 a year back him 76.7, down just one point from last month. Among voters earning $75,000 or more, he is backed by 63.2 vs. 66.3 last month.

Obama enjoys strong majorities in urban (67.3), suburban (66.9) and rural (60.7) areas, though all three have dipped from February.

There is also some evidence that he has lost ground among the young, urban cohort that made up much of his core support. Among young mobile adults, Obama's support slipped to 71.8, down from 85.6 last month. Among downtown residents, he went from 88 last month to 78.7 now.

Also worrying to Obama is a racial divide. His approval among blacks and Hispanics is 85.1. His support among whites overall is 59.6, down from 65.2 in February.

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