Pollster predicts extended honeymoon for Obama

The White House might be the most politically amorous love nest in the nation if the president-elect’s popularity ratings hold true.

In a speech last week, Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut said a swooning public may give Barack Obama a “sweeter and longer honeymoon than most new presidents” because of an unprecedented amount of good will toward the new administration, with favorability ratings topping 68 percent — 12 points higher than those enjoyed by George W. Bush in 2000 and 6 points over Bill Clinton at the start of his first term.

That sense of harmony also appears to extend to the electorate’s trust in Obama. Kohut reports that six in 10 voters said they trusted the Democrat’s judgment to make the right decisions, while the nation was equally split on GOP rival John McCain’s perspicacity and leadership.

Despite the deep hole the country finds itself in, characteristically, the public is highly optimistic that Obama will succeed. Pew found 67% of voters believe Obama will be successful in his first term, and 65% in a Gallup survey said the country will be better off four years from now. Only 50% saw improvement for the country ahead after Clinton’s election in 1992 and Bush’s in 2000.

A good deal of these high expectations reflects the current deep public concern about the state of the nation — conditions are bound to get better at some point. But some of it has to with Obama, who has emerged from a tough and often negative campaign with his image intact, if not enhanced.

I think this is because of his very special ability to communicate and connect, even with those who may not have voted for him. Surprisingly, Obama elicits far more positive reactions from voters now than he did prior to the general election campaign. Pew’s survey finds more voters say Obama makes then feel proud now (65%) than did so in March (42%). More voters also say he makes them feel hopeful, while far less feel angry about him. These positive responses have increased across partisan lines over the past few months. Unquestionably, this is good news for the new administration.

Kohut makes some equally insightful observations about how the 2008 presidential election affected voters’ party affiliation, racial identity and candidate preferences between age groups. It’s well worth your time to check out.

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Wendy Norris

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