Yearender: How far can Obama's "change agenda" go?

13:39, December 09, 2009      

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During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama beat all opponents by successfully capturing Americans' yearnings for change.

Since the first day of his presidency, Obama has been pursuing a "change agenda" aggressively, but it seems few tangible results have been achieved.

Analysts said his continuous downward approval ratings over the past year indicate that his agenda is facing limits.


An important parameter for presidential popularity has been crossed as various polling firms have been reporting since last month that Obama's approval rating dipped below 50 percent.

Gallup announced on Nov. 20 that the president's job-approval rating slipped below 50 percent in its daily tracking poll for the first time in his presidency, which reflects public concerns about the economy, federal spending and health care legislation.

It dropped to 49 percent from 50 percent reported the day before, which may not be a statistically significant change, but historically has some political significance when a president can no longer claim the support of half the American people.

Obama's approval rating dropped below 50 percent for the first time in a CNN survey on Dec. 4, with 49 percent approving his performance while 48 percent disapproved.

His average job rating in based on various polls has been consistently below 50 percent for a while.

It is a stark contrast with what happened in January, when the president's popularity soared to a range of 70 percent plus.

However, as Obama moved forward with core items on his "change agenda," especially the health care reform, public sentiments turned sour.

In August, when wrapping up his first 200 days in office, Obama saw his approval rating hovering in the low 50s.

Keating Holland, CNN's polling director, said the latest CNN poll showed that Obama's biggest approval drop came from non-college-educated white voters, indicating "Obama's growing unpopularity may be more related to unemployment and the poor economy."

The fact that the figure also dropped 15 percentage points among white voters under 50 may partly be due to his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, he added.

Jeff Jones, managing editor at Gallup, said that every modern U.S. president except John Kennedy had lower than majority approval at some point in their presidencies, but Obama's fall has been relatively fast.

Boyce Watkins, a scholar at the Syracuse University, said Obama's popularity decline suggested the fact that "people care more about jobs than anything else."

"You can talk all day about Obama's initiatives on AIDs and fathering, but the truth is that none of this matters if people don't have jobs," he said.

The U.S. economy grew in the third quarter this year for the first time during past four quarters, but the unemployment rate is still in the two digits.

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