Obama’s Legacy as President: Depends on Who You Ask

A national survey of 1,017 adults conducted Dec. 14-19 by The AP-NORC Center, using AmeriSpeak®, finds that most Americans have positive views of President Obama as he leaves the White House, though there are deep partisan divisions in this assessment.

As President Barack Obama prepares to leave the White House after nearly eight years, most Americans have positive views of him and his administration, albeit with lukewarm opinions about some aspects. But, according to the latest Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, there are deep divisions among the public.

Concerning the Obama administration, Democrats are exceptionally positive and Republicans are extremely negative. While less than half of whites have a favorable impression of the president, non-whites are overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Most college graduates give Obama a good grade for his stewardship, but less educated Americans are more critical. The racial and education differences hold even when controlling for party identification.

Only 32 percent of the public say Obama has kept his campaign promises, although 44 percent say he tried to keep the promises but was unsuccessful. Twenty-two percent of Americans (and 49 percent of Republicans) say he did not keep his promises.

And while various economic indicators suggest an improved economy, most Americans do not regard either their own circumstances or the country’s as having improved during the Obama administration.

The nationwide poll of 1,017 adults was part of the AmeriSpeak® Omnibus, a monthly multi-client survey using NORC at the University of Chicago’s probability-based panel. Interviews were conducted between December 14 and 19, 2016, online and using landlines and cell phones.

Three Things You Should Know about The AP-NORC Poll
on President Obama’s legacy:

Among All American Adults

  1. Fifty-seven percent have a favorable impression of Obama, and 52 percent say he has been a great or good president.  
  2. Only 27 percent say Obama has been able to keep his promise to unite the country. While 32 percent say the president has kept his campaign promises in general, 44 percent say he has tried but failed.   
  3. Forty-one percent say they personally are better off now compared to when Obama first entered the White House; 46 percent think the country as a whole is better off. But, regardless of economic indicators suggesting a healthy economy, most people do not perceive an improvement.