(WASHINGTON) — Aided by comparison to the vastly unpopular Congress, Barack Obama has advanced to a 49 percent job approval rating in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll — his best showing since spring, and one that, if it holds, that may put his re-election prospects back within reach.
The result continues an improving trend for the president amid some signs of economic gains. And it contrasts with both parties in Congress, embroiled in their latest game of political chicken. A mere 27 percent of Americans now approve of the Democrats in Congress, and just 20 percent approve of the Republicans — both new lows in ABC/Post polling back to 1994.
Obama’s rating, while still (barely) under 50 percent, is up from his career-low 42 percent in October, and back at the level at which he could run competitively for a second term. George W. Bush had 47 percent approval as close as three months before he won re-election in 2004.
The question in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, is whether Obama’s rating merely reflects blowback against the machinations of Congress. Its latest budget brouhaha put a possible government shutdown back on the table until Saturday, and still threatens extension of the current payroll tax cut. As much as he might like to run against Congress, Obama’s actual opponent — the eventual GOP nominee — may be less of an easy mark.
As things stand, Obama’s regained a substantial (now 15-point) advantage over the Republicans in Congress in trust to protect the middle class, 50-35 percent, after seeing his edge on the issue shrink to four points last month. He’s also moved ahead in trust to handle taxes, 46-41 percent, after trailing in October; and runs about evenly in trust to handle the economy and job creation.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Shelbie Harris, Idaho State Journal
Kevin Liptak, CNN