The public is bullish on Barack Obama, pessimistic about the state of the nation, and unlikely to change its view of the president-elect as a result of the alleged attempt by Illinois’ governor to sell Obama’s US Senate seat.
That is the assessment of Peter Hart, a noted Democratic pollster, who spoke at a Monitor sponsored breakfast for reporters on Thursday.
In the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, which Hart helped conduct, the approval scores for Barack Obama “are indeed stratospheric, and I think as much as anything the nation is hoping for better times,” Hart said.
The public’s feelings about the president-elect - what Hart called the feeling thermometer - are “a very robust 66 percent positive, 11 percent negative."
"That represents his highest mark we have ever measured,” he said.
Good bye to a bad year
While the public is filled with what Hart calls “an excess of hope” about Obama, the view of the nation’s condition is less favorable. “Our mood about where the direction is is exceptionally negative,” Hart said. “We feel this is one of the worst years we have faced. Half of the American public, 48 percent, feel that way.”
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal charges that he allegedly tried to sell Obama’s recently vacated Senate seat. When asked what impact the scandal surrounding the Democratic governor would have on Obama’s standing with the public, Hart said “zero. "
"When I say zero, I just don’t think this has any relationship to Obama," he said. "I think what has happened there, happened in Illinois. It may dominate the news for a period of time but I don’t think it is Obama-related and that voters are going to see it that way.”
Craving national unity
Voters are eager for a sense of national unity, Hart said. “This is a country that is desperately trying to come together and is sort of looking for a unity of purpose, a unity of direction,” he said.
As evidence, Hart noted that 52 percent of those in the NBC News poll said they feel that in 2009 the country will find Congressional Democrats and Republicans in a period of unity, working together and reaching consensus. That is up from 27 percent who felt that way in 2004.
The polling data Hart referred to was collected December 5-8 among 1,009 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.