HUFFPOLLSTER: President Obama Won The Nation's Approval, But Not Its Unity

He leaves with high ratings, but opinions remain deeply split along partisan lines.

Most Americans view President Obama favorably. Many still aren’t sure about President-elect Trump’s ideology. And pollsters need to convince people that improving election polls is worth paying for. This is HuffPollster for Tuesday, January 10, 2017.

BARACK OBAMA LEAVES BEHIND DIVIDES ON HIS LEGACY - Josh Lederman and Emily Swanson: “More Americans feel Barack Obama’s presidency divided the country than feel it brought people together, a new poll shows. Yet he leaves office held in high esteem by a solid majority. Eight years after Obama’s historic election, just 27 percent see the U.S. as more united as a result of his presidency, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted after the 2016 election. Far more — 44 percent — say it’s more divided. Those figures underscore one of the key contradictions of Obama’s presidency. By and large, Americans like him. Yet, aside from the big ‘Obamacare’ health care overhaul, he has been unable to translate that approval into congressional majorities to fulfill many of his goals…. 57 percent say they view Obama favorably, putting him way ahead of his predecessor, George W. Bush, and on par with Bill Clinton at the end of their two terms….Did he keep his promises? He did not, in the minds of 2 of 3 Americans, though 44 percent say he tried.” [AP]

Opinions remain deeply polarized - Mark Blumenthal: “[D]espite a warming trend over the past year, Obama’s sharply polarized ratings remain the defining aspect of the way voters perceive their 44th president; he consistently received nearly unanimous support from Democrats but disapproval from better than 4 of 5 Republicans….Over the past year, Obama’s approval rating among Democratic identifiers increased from 90 to 95 percent….Republicans and GOP-leaning independents were more consistent and steady in their near-unanimous disapproval of Obama for most of 2016, typically varying between just 9 and 10 percent approval for most of the year….Obama showed the biggest gains among independents who lean to neither party, rising from 41 to 49 percent between January and the election and again to 60 percent in late November and 56 percent in early January.” [SurveyMonkey]

AMERICANS STILL AREN’T SURE ABOUT TRUMP’S POLITICS - Kathy Frankovic: “Barack Obama and Donald Trump are political opposites, and on most measures the public sees them very differently. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll shows one judged positively as he ends his time in the White House, while the other has yet to benefit from any major post-election victory bounce….Trump has not yet experienced the bump in hopeful expectations that most Presidents-elect receive, even after other hotly contested elections. After George W. Bush finally was declared the winner of the 2000 election, twice as many Americans were optimistic as pessimistic about his presidency. After the 2016 election, the public was closely divided about Trump’s presidential prospects. There has been little change in that assessment today….The New York businessman will follow a President who was criticized but generally well-liked as a person. Obama is also viewed as caring about individuals’ needs and problems, and consistent in his policy stands. For many Americans, Trump is none of those things….Americans aren’t sure what to think about Trump. Just over a third say he is conservative, but nearly as many say he is either a moderate or a liberal, and the same percentage can’t give any ideological assessment of the incoming President.” [YouGov]

POLLSTERS FACE CHALLENGES BEYOND SURVEY ERROR - Natalie Jackson: “Polls got a lot wrong in 2016 ― Brexit and the U.S. presidential election, for example ― and now some people are ready to swear off polling altogether. A French newspaper says it will no longer pay for public opinion polls as part of its reporting on the country’s upcoming presidential election. The venerable Field Poll in California closed down in late 2016 after nearly 70 years in operation. The future of the long-running poll collaboration between CBS News and The New York Times is up in the air after key departures from the Times….Polling’s biggest problem might not be errors in election estimates. Errors can be fixed with enough investment and research. The greatest threat to polling is that after 2016, there seems to be less willingness than ever to spend money to improve the state of election polling.” [HuffPost]

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TUESDAY’S ‘OUTLIERS’ - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-A new survey finds Donald Trump’s cabinet picks “generally unknown” to voters, but garnering largely favorable reviews. [Morning Consult]

-Ana Swanson and Christopher Ingraham chart Barack Obama’s economic job performance against his predecessors’. [WashPost]

-Aliza Aufrichtig, Lois Beckett, Jan Diehm and Jamiles Lartey visualize the hyperlocality of America’s gun violence problem. [The Guardian]

-The Washington Post maps out America’s billion dollar marijuana industry. [WashPost]