Obama's polls nothing to brag about ahead of big speech

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's poll numbers are near the lowest of his presidency as he prepares to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

According to a CNN Poll of Polls compiled on Monday which averages the most recent non-partisan, live operator national surveys, Obama's approval rating stood at 44%, with 51% of Americans giving a thumbs down to Obama's performance in the White House.

That's marginally better than two months ago when they ran at or near all-time lows for Obama. But it's still far below where it stood a year ago, at his second inaugural, when his approval rating stood in the low to mid 50's in most polling.

Obama's numbers tumbled after a summer of controversy over the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks and congressional investigations into IRS targeting of conservative political groups.

Then came October, and the politically charged botched rollout of Obamacare, his signature domestic policy achievement.

Coupled with legislative setbacks, many pundits labeled 2013 the worst year of Obama's presidency. And for the first time since taking over at the White House in 2009, a majority of the public surveyed disapproved of his job performance.

Obama, himself, has been much more popular than his policies, but his favorable ratings - a separate indicator from job performance -- are also now hovering near his all-time lows.

Just 49% of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post survey said they had a favorable opinion of the President. Fifty percent said they saw him in an unfavorable light.

"Americans' views of Obama as a person started to fall in the spring and summer of 2013, well before the flawed roll-out of the new health care law," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

"Around the time of the NSA and IRS controversies, the number of Americans who felt he was honest and trustworthy dropped nine points, and the number who said he was a strong leader who inspired confidence also dropped at that time," he said.

The President said he doesn't obsess over polling.

"If I was interested in polling, I wouldn't have run for president," Obama said at a news conference in December.

The silver lining for him in all these polls: While his numbers are not impressive, approval ratings for Congress overall, and specifically for congressional Republicans and Democrats, are much lower.

So how does Obama stack up when compared to his most recent two-term predecessors, as they started the sixth year of their presidencies?

George W. Bush was also underwater, with a 43%-54% approval/disapproval rating in January 2006 as the Iraq war raged and criticism of the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina continued.

But Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan fared much better. Clinton stood at 59%-37% in January 1998, with Reagan at 64%-27% in January 1986.

"Historical comparisons suggest that the public's reaction to Bush and Obama are markedly more partisan than their predecessors," Holland said. "It's almost as if the 2000 election marks a dividing point in U.S. politics, with 21st-century presidents not able to rely on support from voters from the opposite party that routinely gave a positive rating of 20th-century presidents."

The CNN Poll of Polls is an average of seven non-partisan, live operator, national surveys of the President's approval rating conducted over the two weeks.

They include the Gallup daily tracking poll (January 21-23); ABC News/Washington Post (January 20-23); Fox News (January 19-21); CBS News (January 17-21); American Research Group (January 17-20); Pew Research Center (January 15-19) and Quinnipiac University (January 15-19).

Since it is an average of multiple surveys, the Poll of Polls does not have a sampling error.

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