by Andrew Kohut, President, Pew Research Center
Special to the New York Times

Barack Obama won only 53% of the vote on Election Day, but he is getting a landslide greeting from the American public. Indeed, recent polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find the public exuberant about Obama and optimistic that he will solve the nation’s problems.

A Pew post-election poll taken last weekend1 finds the voters giving Obama better grades for his conduct during the campaign than any presidential candidate since 1988. Seventy-five percent of the sample gave Obama a grade of A or B grade for his performance, while 24 percent gave him a C, D or F.


The Gallup Poll also showed Obama getting a higher post-election favorable rating (68%) than either George W. Bush in 2000 (56%) or Bill Clinton in 1992 (60%).

Looking ahead, Pew found 67% of its national sample of voters saying they thought that Obama would have a successful first term, as many as 39% of those voters supported John McCain. The Gallup Poll asked a broader question about the state of the country four years from now, but found a similar result: 65% said the country will be better off. In comparison, only 50% thought the country would be better off following George W. Bush’s victory in 2000, and about the same number (51%) thought the country would be better off following Bill Clinton’s success in 1992.

When Gallup asked about specific problems confronting the new administration, it found majorities saying they expected the new administration to succeed2 in dealing with 13 of 16 problem areas they tested. Notably large numbers expected that Obama will increase respect for the United States abroad; improve education, the environment and conditions for minorities and the poor; create a strong economic recovery; and succeed in getting troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan in a way that is “not harmful” to the United States.

The polls also showed the public anticipating a better political environment as well. The Pew survey showed somewhat more voters thinking relations between Republicans and Democrats in Washington would improve under Obama compared with a survey following the 2006 mid-term election (37% versus 29%). And Gallup found as many as 80% of its respondents thinking that Obama will make a sincere effort to work with Republicans to find solutions….

This is all good news for the new administration. Obama may have a sweeter and longer honeymoon than most new presidents, but given the problems he confronts he’ll need it. Most Americans expect him to repair the economy, deal successfully with the wars and make progress on key domestic issues.

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1 High Marks for Campaign, High Bar for Obama, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Nov. 13, 2008.

2 Americans Hopeful Obama Can Accomplish Most Key Goals, Gallup, Nov. 12, 2008.