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Attitude Check: Obama and the American economy

Compared to other incumbent presidents, Obama doesn't stack up so well when it comes to Americans liking his economic policies.

Steve Chiotakis: It's time for Attitude Check: less than a week away from the Iowa caucuses, and Republican presidential candidates are criss-crossing the state talking about the nation's jagged economy -- and pinning it directly on President Obama.

Frank Newport is editor-in-chief of the polling firm Gallup, and he's with us now to gauge how Americans feel about the president's handling of the economy. Morning Frank.

Frank Newport: Good morning.

Chiotakis: What are voters saying about the president's economic strengths and weaknesses?

Newport: Well, interestingly, Obama has more of a strength in foreign policy than we would think when you look at the big picture -- primarily based on the Iraq War ending, and terrorism. He doesn't do well at all when it comes to handling the economy.

However, when we ask Americans: Who do you think would do the better job, for example, on things like handling unemployment and all that, Obama and the Democrats come out ahead of the Republicans.

Chiotakis: Previous incumbents who ran with poor, but improving, economies, found different results. Ronald Reagan won in a landslide in 1984; George H.W. Bush lost in 1992 to Bill Clinton. How does the president compare to those two?

Newport: Right now, I would say Obama is closer to George H.W. Bush, based on all of our indicators. And of course, that's not good news for Obama and his re-election strategists.

For example, economic confidence now -- as we measure it, consumer confidence -- is much closer now to where it was under George H.W. Bush than Reagan. And, when we ask Americans: What's the most important problem facing country, an important measure is the percent who mention the economy. Right now, that's high for Obama, and that's a lot closer to where George H.W. Bush was than it was for Bill Clinton or for Ronald Reagan, of course, who were re-elected.

Chiotakis: You think anything, Frank, will even come close to the economy in importance to the president's re-election? For example, the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden?

Newport: That's a good question. He, for example -- that is, Obama -- got a bump in his ratings when Osama bin Laden was captured. But you know, it dissipated very, very quickly thereafter. And at this point, we don't see anything else supplanting the economy. We would project that is going to be the dominant issue next year, not foreign policy.

Chiotakis: Frank Newport is Gallup's editor-in-chief. Frank, thanks.

Newport: You bet.

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.
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