POLITICS

HUFFPOLLSTER: President Obama Is Leaving Office On A High Note

But views of his legacy remain starkly divided along partisan lines.
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the My Brother's Keeper Summit at the South Court Auditorium of the White Hou
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the My Brother's Keeper Summit at the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 14, 2016.

Americans take a largely positive view of Barack Obama’s presidency, but have less enthusiasm for the country’s direction during his tenure. Donald Trump’s transition continues to stir mixed feelings. And the percentage of the public who see themselves as middle class is on the rise. This is HuffPollster for Friday, December 16, 2016.

MOST APPROVE OF OBAMA’S JOB PERFORMANCE - Pew Research: “With just a few weeks left in Barack Obama’s presidency, Americans’ early judgments of his place in history are more positive than negative. Obama is poised to leave office on a high note: Current assessments of both the president and the first lady are among the most favorable since they arrived in the White House. At the same time, many express skepticism about whether Obama has been able to make progress on the major problems facing the nation, and whether his accomplishments will outweigh his failures....Obama is set to leave the White House with a job approval rating only slightly below Reagan’s and Clinton’s. Currently, 58% approve of his job performance, while 37% disapprove….Obama’s average job rating over the course of his presidency is more politically polarized than any president dating to Dwight Eisenhower….Views of Obama’s place in history also are split along racial lines. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to say history will judge Obama as above average or outstanding: Fully 76% of blacks and just 38% of whites say this.” [Pew]

ACA seen as a signature achievement  - More from Pew: “In the public’s view, Obama will be remembered more for the Affordable Care Act than other aspects of his presidency — including his election as the nation’s first black president. When asked what Obama will be most remembered for, 35% volunteer the 2010 health care law (or mention health care more generally) while 17% say it will be Obama’s election as the first black president. Notably, mentions of Obama’s domestic policies, including health care and the economy, account for nearly half (49%) of all responses. By comparison, only 9% point to foreign policy, including just 2% who specifically mention the killing of Osama bin Laden and just 1% who cite U.S. military action against ISIS.”

AMERICANS THINK THE COUNTRY IS GOING DOWNHILL, BUT THEY’RE PRETTY HAPPY WITH THEIR OWN LIVES - HuffPollster: “Americans largely think the country has headed in the wrong direction during the past eight years, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds, but most also feel that their own lives have improved over that period of time. Thirty-six percent of all Americans think things in the U.S. have generally gotten better over the past eight years, according to the poll, while 52 percent say things are on the wrong track….To dig a little deeper, the HuffPost/YouGov survey also asked respondents to rate the direction things have taken in national politics ― presumably the topic many people are thinking about while answering the question ― but also the direction of their state, community, and their own well-being….Americans say by a 33-point margin that national politics have been headed off on the wrong track for the past eight years, and by a smaller 7-point margin that things in their state have gone off-track as well. But they also say by a 13-point margin that things have generally been going right in their community, and by a 27-point margin that things are going right in their own lives.” [HuffPost]

NEARLY 60 PERCENT OF AMERICANS CONSIDER THEMSELVES ‘MIDDLE CLASS’ - Frank Newport: “The percentage of Americans who say they belong in the upper-middle and middle class has edged up to an average 58% this year, compared with 50% in 2012 and 51% in 2015….The shifting percentages over the past eight years in those identifying as middle class occurred mostly among those without a college degree. Middle-class identification among those with college degrees has been more stable ― and high….The rise was not confined to just one partisan group and was not a direct result of the election of Donald Trump. Perhaps most importantly, middle-class household incomes rose last year, and the shift from lower- and working-class to middle-class identification could reflect these real-world circumstances.” [Gallup]

TRUMP’S POLICIES EXPECTED TO HELP THE WEALTHY - HuffPollster: “Americans widely expect Donald Trump’s presidency to benefit the wealthy, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey released on Tuesday, although those who voted for him believe he’ll be more egalitarian. A 44 percent plurality of respondents expect Trump’s economic policies to mostly favor the rich, with 15 percent saying he’ll favor the middle class, 2 percent that he’ll favor the poor, and 18 percent believing that he’ll treat all groups equally. Yet more than three-quarters of Trump’s supporters expect him to work mostly for the middle class or to treat all groups equally, with just 6 percent believing he’ll help the rich….While 27 percent of Americans consider Trump a populist and 22 percent don’t believe that he is, the majority, 51 percent, say they aren’t sure.” [HuffPost]

More from the latest national polls:

-Fox News: “President Obama ends his presidency with positive ratings for his overall job performance as well as his handling of the economy, according to the latest Fox News Poll.  Yet while more people feel positively about the economy today than have in more than a decade, not many say their family’s financial situation has improved since Obama took office.” [Fox]

-CBS News: “With the inauguration a little over a month away, just over a third of Americans (34 percent) think President-elect Trump will be a good or very good president, and another 23 percent think he will be average. Thirty-six percent think he will be a poor president.” [CBS]

-McClatchy/Marist: “At the midpoint of his transition, President-elect Donald Trump faces a nation rife with dissatisfaction of its direction and pronounced partisan and racial divisions.  Nearly half of voters nationally express approval in how Trump has been carrying out his transition, and a plurality of voters nationally say they think President-elect Trump is taking the country in a better direction.  But, Americans have reservations about whether or not he can unite the country and believe it is more divided than it was before Election Day.” [Marist]  

-HuffPost/YouGov: “Four years after the Sandy Hook massacre, less than a tenth of Americans think that the U.S. has made any progress toward preventing gun violence, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey. Nine percent of Americans say that society has gotten better at preventing gun violence, while 53 percent say it hasn’t changed, and 26 percent that things have worsened ― an even gloomier outlook than in December 2014, when just 18 percent believed things had gotten worse.” [HuffPost]

-Pew Research: “[S]ome Americans say they themselves have shared fake news. Overall, 23% say they have ever shared a made-up news story, with 14% saying they shared a story they knew was fake at the time and 16% having shared a story they later realized was fake.” [Pew]

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

-A new YouGov/Economist poll finds Vladimir Putin’s favorability skyrocketing among Republicans. [HuffPost]

-Ipsos finds that Americans vastly overestimate the nation’s Muslim population. [NBC, full report here]

-A Pew/A+E survey names 9/11, President Obama’s election and the tech revolution among the most historically significant recent events. [Pew]

-Sean McElwee, Jesse H. Rhodes and Brian Schaffner examine the ideological gap between big donors and the nation as a whole. [WashPost]

-Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley note that 2016 was a good year for incumbents. [Sabato’s Crystal Ball]

-Peter K. Enns, Jonathon P. Schuldt, Julius Lagodny and Alexander Rauter find some evidence for the existence of “shy Trump voters.” [WashPost]

-William H. Frey examines new statistics showing that white neighborhoods have become only slightly more diverse since 2000. [Brookings]

-Jingle Bells, Auld Lang Syne, and Silent Night are the top three most common Christmas songs on movie soundtracks. [538]

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