WASHINGTON — Despite ongoing economic problems and political fighting in Washington, nearly two-thirds of Americans approve of President Obama's performance as he approaches his 100th day in the White House, a poll has found.
Sixty percent of people surveyed by the Washington-based Pew Research Center said they approved of his handling of the economy, though most respondents said that his economic policies had not had an effect so far or that it was too soon to tell their effect. On foreign policy, 61% approved of his approach.
And 63% said Obama has "a new approach to politics in Washington," compared with 27% who said his approach is "business as usual."
"People are invested in Obama," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. "They want him to succeed. . . . The basic question is how long people will think this guy has the answers. Right now, a lot of people think he has the answers."
In the poll, which Pew released Thursday, 63% of respondents approved of Obama's job performance and 26% disapproved.
But as with other polls, Pew also found a wide partisan gap: 93% of Democrats approved of Obama's performance, compared with 30% of Republicans.
"This is a president who the base really likes," Kohut said, and that could give Obama latitude in dealing with liberals who want him to hold someone to account for how terrorism suspects were interrogated under President Bush.
"I think he's got a fair amount of maneuvering room with Democrats," Kohut said.
The most surprising finding, Kohut said, "is this notion of Obama still being seen as . . . someone who is going to govern differently in Washington."
The high approval ratings found by the Pew poll were echoed in a new survey by the Associated Press and GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media that found 64% approved of Obama's performance and the Gallup Poll's daily tracking survey that showed him with a 65% job approval rating.
And in the AP/GfK poll, more people said the nation is headed in the right direction than said it's going the wrong way (48% compared with 40%). Not since January 2004 has "right-direction" sentiment dominated in an AP survey.
Republican pollster Lance Tarrance suggested Obama was riding a wave of "pent-up idealism" that ultimately would be tested by how well he addressed the severe problems the nation was facing.
"Anything above 60% in this day and age is pretty good, so we have to give him that," he said. "My basic view would be that, for a solid year, Obama is going to get a pretty good ride, certainly in the upper 50s to the lower 60s.
"Part of that is due to a Republican Party that really hasn't developed a consensus of its own yet," Tarrance said.
But, Tarrance continued, "it is inevitable that if things don't work [and] he doesn't start developing some substance, then he will generate a lot of heat."
Ed Goeas, another Republican pollster, said that Obama had turned his rhetoric away from "down-talking the economy" to a more optimistic outlook, and that the shift may be buoying opinion of him. If unemployment reaches "that magic number of 10%," Goeas suggested, Obama's ratings will probably slide.
Pew surveyed 1,507 adults from April 14 to 21, AP/GfK 1,000 adults from April 16 to 20. Gallup's tracking poll is a three-day average of daily samples of 500 people. Pew and Gallup have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, AP/GfK plus or minus 3.1 points.