The Reagan report card: high marks on most tests
Washington — President Reagan is still getting high marks for his performance as he approaches the halfway point of his first year in office. The national polls, together with assessments from both key politicians and political observers, provide these ratings of how Mr. Reagan is doing so far:
* Political judgment: excellent.
* Handling of his job: very good.
* Communication with the public: excellent.
* Handling of domestic affairs: excellent.
* Handling of foreign affairs: fair to good.
* Communication with Congress: excellent.
* Persuasiveness with blacks and Hispanics: fair to poor.
* Ability to hold the constituency that voted for him last fall: excellent.
* Communication with the press: fair.
* Communication with the business community: very good.
* Communication with organized labor: good.
The polls show that about 59 percent of Americans think the President is doing a good job, down almost 10 points from where he was a few weeks back -- down to about where he was before the assassination attempt.
Mr. Reagan's standing in the polls is roughly the same as President Carter's was at a similar point in the Carter administration.
What gives Reagan more lasting strength than Mr. Carter is the large amount of hard-core support he has garnered, estimated as high as 40 to 45 percent of Americans by expert analyzers of the polls.
Carter's support at first appeared to contain a hard core of Southerners and blacks. But this backing, particularly among those in the South, was fleeting. It started disappearing right after the 1976 election.
And the blacks were more anti-Republican than pro-Carter, it seems. They had little difficulty in choosing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts over Carter during the 1980 Democratic primaries.
The staunch Reagan support comes basically from those who have long embraced his conservatism on domestic issues and his hard line in dealing with the Soviet Union.
It is estimated that with Southern conservative Democrats joining Northern conservative Republicans, this group of loyalists may come to nearly 45 percent of US voters.
John Sears, a longtime GOP political strategist and analyst who had a falling out with Reagan during the last campaign, says that "what makes and breaks it for you as president is how much hard support there is for you."
Mr. Sears sees such support for Reagan, in the neighborhood of 40 percent of voters.
When asked about President Nixon's enduring support, Sears, who has worked for both Nixon and President Ford in the White House, told a group of reporters over breakfast recently:
"Nixon's hard-core support was never that high -- perhaps it got to 25 percent."
What also keeps Reagan high in public favor is what is so often called the "personal factor" by both pollsters and reporters.
A large percentage of the public, well above his current 59 percent rating, finds the President to be a most likable individual.
This public warmth for Reagan, as measured statistically, moved up well into the 70 percent area right after the assassination attempt. It appears to be staying there, or close to it, even with dip in his rating for overa ll performance.