In sharp contrast to his self-assessment of a solid B+, Americans give President Obama a C grade for his overall performance for the first year of his term. However, he consistently gets lower grades on policy issues.
The president also fares poorly on domestic issues as compared to foreign affairs, showing particular weakness in economy-related issues.
These are the key findings from the latest IBD/TIPP poll of 923 Americans completed Jan. 9. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
For the first year of his term, 40% of Americans give President Obama an A or B. By party, 74% of Democrats, 8% of Republicans, and 34% of Independents give him good grades.
Americans are harsher in grading his performance on economy-related issues. He gets good grades from only 35% for handling of the economy and from 31% for managing the federal budget. His worst performance came for creating jobs and economic growth, where he gets good grades from only 25%.
On his signature policy issue of health care, he gets good grades from only 32%. One measure of the unpopularity of the health care reform is the D+ grade he gets for the issue from Independents.
His best performance was for handling foreign affairs, for which he gets an A or B from 39% of Americans. Just under one-third (32%) see him favorably for his handling of the war in Afghanistan. His performance received favorable ratings from another 32% on the issue of Iran.
On one hand, Americans find Obama to be charming and see his presidency in historic light. On the other hand, a center-right country is not yet ready for his liberal policy positions. This explains the wide gap between his overall ratings and his ratings on policy issues.
Obama's performance does not impress Independents. They give him a C- for handling the economy, a D+ for creating jobs and economic growth, and a D+ for managing the federal budget.
What are the implications?
First, Democratic politicians misinterpreted Obama's victory in 2008 as a broad mandate for sweeping liberal policy, not realizing that expectations of Americans were far different. This puts Democrats seeking re-election this year in peril. Look no further than the generational races in New Jersey and Virginia and the close race fought in Massachusetts.
Second, due to the president's fading cache with the voters, Democratic politicians will have to stand on their own and cannot expect Obama to secure their re-election.
Third, his weakness in policy issues sets a downward trajectory of overall approval, and a significant reversal is not imminent especially on economy-related issues in a wobbly economy.
Finally, the moral for the president is that he must strategically reverse course to the center since his current policy positions are not helping his standing.
Mayur is president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which directs the IBD/TIPP Poll that was the most accurate in the last two presidential elections.