Gallup’s fascinating analysis of how Americans perceive Obama


The most widely and regularly reported polls on President Obama are those that measure only the public’s take on his job performance.

THIS ANALYSIS by the Gallup Organization digs a little deeper into how Americans feel about the president:

Although Americans rate President Barack Obama highest on being likable (76%) among a set of personal characteristics, those views are not strongly related to their overall approval of the job he is doing as president. Instead, two other characteristics he scores well on — displaying good judgment in a crisis (58%) and being honest and trustworthy (55%) — do relate highly to his overall job approval rating. Perceptions that Obama “shares your values” are the strongest predictor of approval, but his score on that dimension, 48%, is only average on a relative basis.

The results are based on an analysis of character ratings in a June 20-24 Gallup poll. Gallup asked Americans to rate the president on 12 personality dimensions. Obama’s ratings range from a low of 38% for having a clear plan to solve the country’s problems to a high of 76% for being likable.

Regardless of his scores on these dimensions, some are more influential in determining whether Americans approve or disapprove of the job he is doing. To assess this, Gallup ran a statistical model to see which characteristics were most strongly predictive of Obama’s job approval.

Of the 12 characteristics, seven had a significant independent effect on job approval, taking into account the effect of the other characteristics on approval. The most influential, “shares your values,” had an odds ratio of nearly 6.0, meaning those who believe Obama shares their values are about six times more likely than those who believe he does not to approve of the job he is doing as president. That strong relationship makes sense from the standpoint that those most likely to share Obama’s values — namely, Democrats — are also most likely to approve of the overall job he is doing as president. So the strength of the relationship between that trait and job approval may derive from the strong relationship between party identification and job approval.

Beyond shared values, those who believe the president displays good judgment in a crisis are more than 4.5 times as likely to approve of Obama’s job performance as those who believe he does not. And those who believe the president is honest and trustworthy are three times more likely to approve of Obama than those who believe he is not honest. Obama’s ratings on those two dimensions are 55% or better, making them two of his strongest characteristics both in terms of Americans’ ratings of him and also how influential they are in Americans’ approval of the job he is doing. As such, his perceived honesty and judgment in a crisis are key strengths for the president.

Four other characteristics are also predictive of Obama’s approval, but to a lesser degree. These include managing the government effectively, choosing good advisers, getting things done, and being a strong and decisive leader. Of these, he scores best on strong and decisive leadership, which 53% of Americans say describes him. His ratings on the other three characteristics in this group are between 44% and 48%, average to below-average scores for him. Thus, they can be considered potential weaknesses or challenges for him given their positive relationship to job approval and Obama’s lower scores on those dimensions.

The five characteristics that do not have a meaningful effect on job approval are being likable, having a clear plan for solving the country’s problems, understanding the problems Americans face in their daily lives, working well with both parties in Washington to get things done, and putting the country’s interests ahead of his own political interests.


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