(NEW YORK) — President Obama holds most of the cards in fiscal cliff negotiations with the Republican leaders of Congress, with more Americans approving of his handling of the talks and more prepared to blame the GOP if the brinksmanship fails. But another factor constrains the president: His lack of a mandate in the public’s mind.
Overall, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows the impact of Obama’s successful re-election campaign. His job approval rating — at 54 percent — is his highest (excepting a brief Osama bin Laden bounce) in nearly two years. And even while weakly rated on the economy, he leads the Republicans in trust to handle it by 18 percentage points, his widest margin since July 2009.
But for all his advantages, Americans by a wide 22-point margin — 56-34 percent — say Obama does not have “a mandate to carry out the agenda he presented during the presidential campaign,” but rather should “compromise on things the Republicans strongly oppose” — a sign of risk for the president if the talks should collapse.
The sense Obama has a mandate, notably, is 16 points lower than it was after the 2008 election, suggesting a more restricted range of political possibilities in his second term. The decrease is broadly based, occurring across groups save Democrats and nonwhites.
Reflecting the GOP’s challenges in opposing tax cuts on the wealthy, Obama leads especially widely — by 26 points, 58-32 percent — in trust to protect the middle class — a perception he wielded to great effect against Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign. Obama’s lead on the economy is double what it was at the start of the year, higher notably among moderates and independents.
More generally, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, shows a 12-point advantage for Obama in trust to handle the main problems the nation faces over the next few years. That includes a 9-point edge among political independents.
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