Three months after his coming to power, Barack Obama is enormously popular with Americans. At a time when people have more confidence in the government than in big business, the president seems to give new life to the country, which has now been mired in economic crisis for a year and a half. However, as our correspondent noted, this does not mean that the new president has unanimous support.
The list of Obama’s faults is long, and Kevin Shear takes pleasure in reciting them, a bit like the way a child takes pleasure in letting air out of a balloon that is about to pop.
Obama is too timid. He is not proud enough of his country. He’s going to triple the national deficit. He has given in too much since meeting King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. He needs a teleprompter to give his speeches. He is in power because the American press worships him.
“Obama goes to Europe and practically apologizes for being American,” adds Mr. Shear, who works as a film extra in Los Angeles. “He wants the rest of the world to like us. Personally, I’m not interested in what the rest of the world thinks of us. Governing the most powerful country in the world is not a popularity contest.”
Kevin Shear did not vote for Barack Obama. In fact, he didn’t vote at all. In spite of everything, he does offer his support, hesitant as it is, to the new president today.
“I don’t like him, but I find that the Republicans are even worse,” he says. “For the time being, I tolerate. I don’t know how long it’s going to last.”
Mr. Shear’s opinion reflects a reality that very few pundits and political scientists would have predicted barely three months ago: Barack Obama is more popular today than on the day of his election.
After about 100 days in office, President Obama has the support of 63% of Americans, which is the highest mark ever attained by a president during this period in office for three decades. On November 4th last year, 52.9% of voters voted for him.
On the question of the economy, which is crucial this year, 71% of Americans affirm that they are confident in Obama’s economic decisions. According to a Gallup poll conducted in mid-April, the president enjoys the support of practically all Democratic voters, two-thirds of Independent voters, and one-third of Republican voters.
Analysts see in this the president’s magic touch – he has succeeded in imposing himself without the appearance of having muzzled his opponents. Obama’s popularity rating stands out against that of Republicans in Congress; in terms of public confidence, they are under the 30% mark.
According to Dick Keil, spokesperson for Public Strategies, Inc., “[t]o be well-liked by the American public right now, you have to prove that you can work with your adversaries.”
According to Keil, the coalition that Obama built in Washington is still in place, at a time when he attempts to combat the economic crisis and several other leading issues.
“The president is very popular with Democrats and, even more important, with Independents. This also shows that people are at ease with the idea of a government that intervenes to solve problems and find solutions – which had not been the case a few years ago.”
Guarding His Left
While Americans overwhelmingly support their president, some on the left are asking themselves if he isn’t doing too much to find a middle ground with his opponents. Obama was elected hands down last fall, they recall. He has a clear mandate to change the face of the United States.
“I think that the contrast with Bush is so striking that people are still in shock,” explains Sarah Right, a student living in Santa Monica. “No Democrat would dare criticize Obama because he is generally going in the right direction.”
According to Right, the nearly unanimous support enjoyed by the president with voters who supported him will dissolve later in his term.
“Obama is in favor of using carbon to produce electricity, but the left is against this 100%. Unless there is a change on Obama’s Obama, I can imagine the day when ecologists will protest in front of the White House,” she says.
Christian Haskin, who volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign last year, believes that the president is “incredibly effective” and says that he is proud to see him represent the United States abroad. If pollsters called him, he says, he would have nothing but good words about the president.
“But in my heart, I would like to see more radical change in Washington,” he notes. “I am not a fan of the president’s economic advisers, who have come from Goldman Sachs and other companies that have gotten us in this mess. I’m not convinced that we’re learning from our mistakes. I hope that we are, but I am not sure.”
He would also like to see the American media be more analytical. The hundreds of billions of dollars in public money invested in the banks and insurance companies is no longer news. Where did the money go? Will the taxpayers be reimbursed?
“The media from the right criticize Obama for everything, while those on the left applaud him,” he says. “It’s hard to know the real truth. I find that Obama is doing a good job, but I would like to understand better where it’s going to lead.”
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