Three in five also believe he tries to do too many things at once
While President Obama has focused on the economy and working with Democrats in Congress to overhaul the financial industry, other crises have come into play - most prominently, the oil spill in the Gulf.
This again has forced his attention from the one thing the public cares most about - finding jobs and getting the economy back on track.
Currently, two in five Americans (42%) give President Obama positive ratings on the overall job he is doing while 58% give him negative ratings. This is almost unchanged from last month when 41% gave him positive ratings and 59% gave him negative ones.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,503 adults surveyed online between May 10 and 17, 2010 by Harris Interactive.
While it is not surprising that 92% of Republicans give the president negative ratings, one-quarter of Democrats (25%) also give him negative marks as do 68% of Independents. There is also an educational gap on his approval ratings.
Two-thirds of those with a high school degree or less (65%) give the president negative marks while three in five of those with a post-graduate education (61%) give him positive ratings.
Just over half of those with some college or a college degree (55% and 56% respectively) give the president negative marks on his overall job.
President Obama as a Leader
It took the president some time to get his health care bill through Congress and that might have hurt perceptions of him as a strong leader.
But, three-quarters of Americans (77%) agree that President Obama is a tough fighter for what he believes in, while two-thirds say he is someone who usually gets his own way (65%) and that he is usually able to get Congress to support his policies (64%).
However there is also a perception that President Obama has bitten off more than he can chew and that he changes his position frequently. Three in five Americans (62%) say President Obama tries to do too many things at once, while 58% say he is a strong leader.
Public opinion is divided however on whether President Obama "flip-flops" as 44% say he is not someone who changes his position if he is strongly opposed while 43% believe the opposite.
For the most part, the differences between Republicans and Democrats are not as large as one might expect. In fact, 68% of Democrats and 66% of Republicans believe President Obama is usually able to get Congress to support his policies.
Most of the other differences are around twenty percentage points, yet there is one notable exception. While almost nine in ten Democrats (87%) say President Obama is a strong leader, only 23% of Republicans agree.
In April almost two in five Americans (39%) thought the country was going in the right direction; this was a high not seen since October of last year. This month, it has dropped again and just 36% believe the country is going in the right direction while 64% believe things have gotten off on the wrong track.
When the attitudes of Americans are this negative about the country as a whole, for a president's numbers to really increase he would have to accomplish something that impacts people where they are hurting the most.
Right now, that is still economically, and the recent volatility of the stock market further reinforces that in people's minds, even if they are not serious investors. Until this changes, President Obama's approval ratings will mostly likely not change.
Note: Prior to March, 2009 this question was asked via telephone
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 10 to 17, 2010 among 2,503 adults (aged 18 and over).
Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.
Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates.
These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population.
Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.
The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.
Q1205, 1210, 1215, 1220
The Harris Poll ® #70, May 21, 2010
By Regina A. Corso, Director, The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive
About Harris Interactive
For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com .
New York, N.Y. - 21 May 2010