President Elect Barack Obama has gotten a nice Christmas present from a poll: a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll not only shows that his honeymoon is continuing but that he is impressing more people than before.
And he’s coming into office with better honeymoon period polling numbers than any president in some 30 years:
Call it a love affair so far between Barack Obama and the American people.
More than eight in 10, or 82 percent, of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Wednesday approve of the way Obama is handling his presidential transition.
That approval is up 3 percentage points from when CNN asked the same question at the beginning of December. Fifteen percent of those surveyed disapprove of the way the president-elect is handling his transition, down 3 points from the last poll.
Obama’s approval is higher than George W. Bush eight years ago. Bush had a 65 percent approval rating during his transition, and Bill Clinton was at 67 percent in 1992.
“Barack Obama is having a better honeymoon with the American public than any incoming president in the past three decades. He’s putting up better numbers, usually by double digits, than Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan or either George Bush on every item traditionally measured in transition polls,” said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director.
What does this likely mean?
1. Obama is coming into office with what so many centrists, moderates and independent voters had hoped to see in a leader, of any party: with a broad-based initial coalition of well-wishers, versus a large number of people waiting for a chance to re-ignite the 1960s-baby-boomer-spiced polarization wars that have plagued American politics for so long.
2. Honeymoons aren’t forever or they wouldn’t be called honeymoons. So the clock will start loudly ticking once he’s in office. How he fares will depend on both results and intent. If he starts to come across as one more platitude-mouthing pol and his policies make things worse rather than start to even slowly stabilize the situation, this most-assuredly-tentative coalition will fall apart rapidly.
3. The talk radio political culture has its limits. The talk radio political culture includes some who aren’t talk show hosts. The actual talk radio show hosts such as Rush, Sean et. al. who still talk about Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, and mention Obama’s middle name ad nauseam, have not had much impact with the general populace. But they are likely to prosper in terms of ratings during the Obama years, particularly if progressive talkers are either defending Obama to the extent that they sound like they’re doing DNC talking points OR if progressive talkers go after Obama for not being progressive enough.
4. Poll clout such as this is likely to transfer into political clout in Congress for Obama. It also will likely increase what can be expected to be already heavy media coverage, since the polls indicate reader interest in Obama is exceptionally high.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.