Liberals' Confidence in Obama Remains High

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Conservatives' opinions of president-elect becoming more positive

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup Poll Daily tracking finds support for Barack Obama among liberal Democrats holding steady at 93% despite news reports that his core supporters are disappointed with some of his cabinet appointments and other decisions. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, Obama's ratings have improved among conservative Republicans, up from 23% to 29%.

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More than 9 in 10 liberal Democrats have expressed confidence that Obama will make a good president since Gallup began tracking these opinions after the election last November. Moderate and conservative Democrats show nearly as high levels of confidence.

Obama's recent decision to have conservative preacher Rick Warren deliver the invocation at the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration and his choices of Republicans Robert Gates and Ray LaHood for cabinet positions have been controversial among members of the political left. Additionally, women's groups have been reported as expressing disappointment that Obama has not selected more women for cabinet-level positions in his administration. But these decisions apparently have not shaken liberal Democrats' confidence in Obama to any perceptible degree, according to aggregated data of thousands of Gallup Poll daily interviews from the immediate post-election period (Nov. 5-30), early December (Dec. 1-17) after he announced many of his cabinet choices, and in recent days (Dec. 18-28) after announcing Warren's role in the inauguration, arguably his most controversial action to date.

Earlier, Gallup documented a slight drop in confidence in Obama among liberals (regardless of party affiliation) immediately after he announced his national security team, which included Gates but also former presidential rival Hillary Clinton. But that dip proved to be temporary, and liberals as a group now support Obama at the same levels seen right after his election. (Confidence among all liberals was 89% in the immediate post-election phase, and is 89% over the last two weeks.)

Perhaps because his choices may signal a more politically moderate approach to governing, conservative, moderate, and liberal Republicans have become more confident in Obama's potential in recent weeks.

Now, a slim majority of moderate and liberal Republicans, 51%, say they are confident Obama will be a good president, up from 44% in November. Conservative Republicans remain largely skeptical of Obama's abilities, but in recent weeks his stock has risen slightly among this group, from 23% to 29%.

Since confidence in Obama is steady among Democrats, and the changes among Republicans (though notable) have been fairly small, there has only been a slight increase in confidence in Obama among all Americans, from 65% in November to 67% over the last two weeks.

There have been greater changes in Obama's basic favorable ratings, which have increased from an already high 67% in the first few weeks after the election to 72% in the most recent data.

Here again, opinions of Obama are extremely positive and highly stable among Democrats, but have shown significant improvement among Republicans. Conservative Republicans' average favorable ratings have increased by 11 percentage points since November, and moderate and liberal Republicans show a 13-point increase.

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Implications

While a few of Obama's recent actions may have been unpopular with some liberal opinion leaders and led to news reports of liberal discontent with him, Gallup finds that liberal Democrats nationwide continue to express strongly positive opinions of the president-elect. And while his high level of support among Democrats has remained steady since he was elected, Republicans' ratings of Obama have become more positive in recent weeks.

This does not rule out the possibility that liberal Democrats still rate Obama positively on balance but have become less enthusiastic about him in ways that would not be picked up by the basic confidence and favorability measures reported here. These measures only offer respondents a positive or negative response, so any drop in the degree of positive (or negative) feeling would not be apparent.

Survey Methods

Results are based on aggregated telephone interviews from Gallup Poll Daily tracking, from Nov. 5-Dec. 28, 2008. Gallup interviews no less than 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, each day. The Obama questions are asked of a random half of each day's sample. For results based on the total sample of 4,022 national adults interviewed between Dec. 18 and Dec. 28, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Margins of error for subgroups will be larger than for the overall sample.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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