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Polls Signal Support for Obama, Concerns on Economy

New polls reveal continued public approval of President Barack Obama and a range of concerns on the economy. Two political reporters discuss what the public is thinking -- and why -- one month into the Obama presidency.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Three new national polls out today show President Obama with a significant cushion of public support as he prepares to address Congress and the nation tonight. Surveys conducted over the weekend by USA Today-Gallup, the Washington Post and ABC News, and the New York Times and CBS News show 62 percent to 68 percent of those polled approve of the new president; 77 percent say they are generally optimistic about the next four years; 64 percent favor giving government aid to homeowners facing foreclosure; and 73 percent say Obama is trying to compromise with congressional Republicans, while only 34 percent see Republicans as striving for compromise.

    For more on what the public is thinking and why just over a month into the Obama presidency, we turn to Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today, and Amy Walter, editor-in-chief for the Hotline, National Journal's political daily.

    Welcome to you both.

  • AMY WALTER, Editor-in-Chief, The Hotline:

    Thank you.

  • SUSAN PAGE, USA Today:

    Thank you, Gwen.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    How do these numbers, Susan, compare to what we have seen for past first-term presidents one month out?

  • SUSAN PAGE:

    You know, they're almost — President Obama is almost exactly where his previous — his predecessors have been at about this point. And about a month in, presidents are beginning to lose a little bit of that inaugural glow. They're usually right there in that — in that 60 percent, near that 60 percent line.

    In some ways, this is impressive for President Obama, because he comes in at a very difficult time and he's tried to do a lot in this first month. So in some ways, that may have drawn some lines that would have driven approval ratings down for other presidents. But right now, he's right in the middle.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So when the White House looks at numbers like this, Amy, do they translate it as, "This gives me room to run"?

  • AMY WALTER:

    Well, I think they're going to look at two things. The first thing is — and I agree with Susan — it's one thing to come in a month into your presidency and then say, "Well, I have approval ratings up in the mid- to high 60s." It's another thing to say, "Oh, and, P.S., I've already gone through major legislative battles."

    Most presidents a month in are still trying to find the bathrooms or figure out where their staff is. So I think that's significant.

    The other thing that I am looking at, too, is it's not just how popular the president is, but it's how unpopular Republicans are. And so when you look at across the board, it's not the Republican Party, but it's Republicans in Congress. Democrats have an overall positive approval rating from voters; Republicans have a negative view for voters.