WASHINGTON — As President Obama continues to express confidence in the U.S. economy, many Americans say they have confidence in his ability to steer the nation's fortunes in the right direction.
A new Gallup poll found that 71% of those interviewed said they placed "a great deal or a fair amount" of confidence in the president to bring about an economic recovery.
That puts Obama ahead of some of the country's leading economic experts: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke had a 49% rating in the poll and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner drew 47%.
Fifty-one percent of respondents said they were confident in Democratic congressional leadership on the economy.
Thirty-eight percent felt that way about Republican leaders.
Obama -- who has won passage of a $787-billion economic stimulus package and advanced multibillion-dollar plans to aid homeowners, the auto industry and other sectors of the economy -- has said tough times are ahead, but he is seeing signs of improvement in an economy that has been mired in recession for more than a year.
"The economy is still under severe stress," Obama said last week after meeting with economic advisors and Bernanke at the White House. "We're still seeing a lot of job losses, a lot of hardship . . . so we've still got a lot of work to do."
But, the president said, the nation was starting to see "glimmers of hope."
Bernanke, who became Fed chairman in 2006 during the Bush administration, was instrumental in convincing Congress before Obama took office to provide a $700-billion bailout of financial firms.
And Geithner pushed for federal assistance for the financial markets and homeowners while demanding concessions from automakers -- forcing the resignation of the chairman of General Motors as the company sought additional aid from the government.
"It is unlikely that many Americans have a highly sophisticated understanding of the complex economic policies enacted in the last several months by either Bernanke or Geithner," said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll. "Yet only 17% and 14% of Americans, respectively, are not able or willing to give an opinion on confidence in these two men's actions on the economy."
The survey of 1,027 adults conducted last week had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.