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Poll: America's honeymoon with Obama continues

  • Story Highlights
  • Poll: More than eight in 10 approve of how Barack Obama is handling transition
  • Obama has higher ratings than Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan did at same time
  • Poll: Fifty-six percent say Obama's Cabinet picks are outstanding or above average
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By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Call it a love affair so far between Barack Obama and the American people.

President-elect Barack Obama is on vacation in Hawaii after appointing his Cabinet in record time.

President-elect Barack Obama is on vacation in Hawaii after appointing his Cabinet in record time.

More than eight in 10, or 82 percent, of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Wednesday approve of the way Obama is handling his presidential transition.

That approval is up 3 percentage points from when CNN asked the same question at the beginning of December. Fifteen percent of those surveyed disapprove of the way the president-elect is handling his transition, down 3 points from the last poll.

Obama's approval is higher than George W. Bush eight years ago. Bush had a 65 percent approval rating during his transition, and Bill Clinton was at 67 percent in 1992.

"Barack Obama is having a better honeymoon with the American public than any incoming president in the past three decades. He's putting up better numbers, usually by double digits, than Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or either George Bush on every item traditionally measured in transition polls," said Keating Holland, CNN's polling director.

The poll also suggests that the public approves of the president-elect's Cabinet nominees, with 56 percent of those questioned saying his appointments have been outstanding or above average. Thirty-two percent said they feel the picks have been average, and 11 percent said Obama's choices have been below average or poor.

That 56 percent figure is 18 percentage points higher than those who said Bush's Cabinet appointments were outstanding or above average and 26 points higher than those who felt the same way about Clinton's nominees. Video Watch how the economy is the top issue on voters' minds »

"Obama walks in with nearly twice the support on the economy that President-elect Clinton had in January 1993, and he beats Ronald Reagan as well," Holland adds.

A third said that their impression of Obama has gotten better since the election, with 8 percent saying their opinion has gotten worse.

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"The bad news for Obama: History shows that presidents usually start to lose support once they assume office and start making the tough decisions. But with eight in 10 currently approving of Obama, he can give away 20 or 30 points and still have a majority of the country on his side. That's a reservoir of good will that may help him get things done in his first few months on the job," Holland said. Video Watch whether Obama can fix the economy »

The CNN/Opinion Research poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, with 1,013 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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