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President Obama's surging popularity: What it means
The president enters his second term with his highest favorability rating in three years
 
President Obama is all smiles with his favorability rating at a three-year high.
President Obama is all smiles with his favorability rating at a three-year high. John Gurzinski/Getty Images

Fresh off his second inauguration, President Obama is starting his new term with his favorability rating at a three-year high. Sixty percent of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Obama, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday. That's a considerable improvement over his poll numbers during last year's heated campaign, when Obama typically scored in the low- to mid-50 percent range. Of course, Obama is still way short of the peak of his personal popularity, when 79 percent gave him high marks at the start of his first term four years ago.

Still, today's numbers are even better than they look for Obama at first glance, according to Brett LoGiurato at Business Insider. The percentage of people offering "strongly" favorable ratings (39 percent) is up, too, and exceeds the percentage saying they're strongly unfavorable for the first time in two years.

Overall, it's the best image for Obama since 61 percent of Americans said they viewed him favorably in a Nov. 15, 2009, poll taken a year after the 2008 election. It could continue to give the president advantages on key legislative issues he's trying to push in the first few months of his new term — immigration, gun control, and on key fiscal battles. [Business Insider]

Some conservatives aren't so sure. "While the mainstream press routinely reports that President Obama is riding high and that Republicans are reeling," says Jeffrey H. Anderson at The Weekly Standard, Obama's job approval ratings — which are different than personal popularity numbers — tell a different story. According to Gallup, Obama's job approval rating in January was, on average, 52 percent, which is lower than every president but one, dating back to 1945.

President George W. Bush's average approval rating in January 2005, immediately following his re-election, was also 52 percent. This can hardly be a source of satisfaction for Obama, who ran against Bush not once but twice — without Bush's being on the ticket either time. [The Weekly Standard]

It does appear that Obama is firing up his base, though. Democrats and independents are giving Obama higher marks, which helps explain why his progressive inaugural address served as "a pep rally, with raving reviews from supporters," according to Scott Clement and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. Still, despite Obama's surging popularity among his fans, 80 percent of Republicans have an unfavorable view of him, similar to the 78 percent he scored last January. That could very well mean that Obama will run into the same obstacles he has for the last three years.

After surviving the "fiscal cliff" debate no worse for wear, Obama seems emboldened by his current standing. He has tightened his grip on the bully pulpit, advocating new gun legislation and immigration reform in an effort to parlay his personal popularity into legislative victories. Still, the deep partisan divide over Obama will make it difficult for Republicans and conservative Democrats to get on board, especially those facing re-election contests in 2014. [Washington Post]

 

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