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Obama being judged for actions, not promises, polls show

  • Story Highlights
  • President Obama's approval ratings down, but remain high, polls say
  • Two surveys indicate concerns over federal deficit are growing
  • "There's a wait-and-see attitude" on Obama, CNN's Bill Schneider says
  • GOP not benefiting from drop in Obama's numbers, polls suggest
By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Three new national polls suggest President Obama is more popular than his policies. Two of those surveys, by NBC-Wall Street Journal and CBS-New York Times, also indicate concerns over the federal deficit are growing.

Three in 10 people think President Obama has a clear plan for dealing with the deficit, a poll says.

Three in 10 people think President Obama has a clear plan for dealing with the deficit, a poll says.

Sixty-three percent of those questioned in the CBS-New York Times poll, which was released Wednesday night, approve of the job Obama is doing as president, down 5 points from April.

But when asked about specifics, his approval rating drops. Fifty-seven percent in the survey say they approve of how the president is dealing with the economy, 44 percent give Obama a thumbs up on health care reform and 41 percent approve of how he's handling the problems of the U.S. auto industry.

The poll also indicates that 30 percent think Obama has a clear plan for dealing with the nation's deficit.

The NBC-Wall Street Journal survey, also released Wednesday night, makes the same point. The president's overall approval in that poll stands at 56 percent, down five points from April. But only about half of those questioned approve of how he's handling the economy, and 56 percent oppose Obama's plan to provide financial aid to General Motors.

The president's approval rating stands at 61 percent in a Pew Research Center poll, down two points from its April survey. Just over half of those questioned in the poll, released Thursday, approve of how Obama is handling the economy, and 47 percent support his handling of the automakers.

"Personally, President Obama's more popular than his policies. Americans have a high level of confidence in the president, but people don't believe many of his policies have worked yet. There's a wait-and-see attitude," said CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

Asked Thursday about the new polls, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, "I think the president would tell you that he's going to do what's in the best interest of the American economy. Some of those things will be more popular than others. I think the American people are rightly anxious and concerned about the economy, just as the president is."

The NBC-Wall Street Journal poll suggests the drop in the president's approval rating may be linked to sagging support from independent voters. Forty-six percent of independents questioned in the survey approve of the job Obama is doing in the White House, down 14 points from April. The president's approval rating among independents stands at 58 percent in the CBS-New York Times poll.

"The key to Obama's margin of victory has always been his appeal to independent voters and his willingness to work across partisan lines. This decrease in support among independents is something the White House must be paying attention to, because these voters are crucial," said CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

The NBC-Wall Street Journal and CBS-New York Times polls indicate a growing concern by Americans over the federal deficit. Nearly six in 10 in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll feel the White House and Congress should worry more about keeping the deficit down even if that means it will take longer for the country to rebound from the recession.

Fifty-two percent of those questioned in the CBS-New York Times poll say it is more important to focus on deficit reduction than spending to stimulate the economy, 9 points higher than those who say it is more important to concentrate on pumping up the economy.

"People are very worried about the deficit. They want attention paid to the deficit even if it slows down the recovery. These new polls also suggest that the view that the economy is getting better has stalled," Schneider said.

The NBC-Wall Street Journal poll suggests that Americans don't blame Obama for the economy or the deficit, with 46 percent placing blame on former President Bush, 21 percent saying it is the Democrats in Congress who are at fault, 7 percent blaming congressional Republicans and 6 percent saying Obama is at fault. More than seven in 10 say the current state of the economy is something the president inherited.

So, do Republicans benefit from the drop in Obama's numbers on specific issues? Both polls suggest the answer is no. Twenty-eight percent of people questioned in the CBS-New York Times survey have a favorable view of the GOP, with more than twice that number saying they have a positive opinion of the Democratic party. One in four give the Republican party a favorable rating in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, an all-time low in that survey's history.

"Whatever doubts Americans have about Obama or the deficit, it's not helping the Republicans. Americans don't see the GOP as having anything new on the table," Schneider said.

The NBC-Wall Street Journal poll was conducted June 12-15, with 1,008 people questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The CBS-New York Times poll was conducted June 12-16, with 895 people questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Pew Research Center poll was conducted June 10-14, with 1,502 people questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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