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Americans More Optimistic; Still Hate Gop

The latest New York Times poll is loaded with good news for the Obama administration and news that would be devastating for the GOP if it were ever able to penetrate the conservative-media echo chamber. While the public is still pretty pessimistic about the future, it's considerably less so than it was before Barack Obama took office. Thirty-nine percent of respondents in the Times poll think the country is going in the right direction and 53 percent say the wrong direction, a substantial improvement from January, when the numbers were 15 and 79, respectively. Similarly, 20 percent of those polled think the economy is getting better and 34 percent worse, versus 7 and 54 in January.

But it's the political numbers that are truly striking. Obama has a 66 percent approval rating, which is the highest this poll has recorded, while the GOP's favorability is at 31 percent, the lowest the poll has recorded in 25 years of asking the question. Arguably more remarkable still is that, asked whether Obama or the GOP Congress would be more likely to make "the right decisions about the nation's economy," respondents broke for Obama 63 percent to 20 percent. That means that even within the 31 percent rump that holds a positive view of the GOP, at least a third trust Obama's instincts on the economy equally or more. And why shouldn't they? Despite Rush Limbaugh's best efforts just 2 percent of respondents blame Obama for the state of the economy, compared to 33 percent who blame George W. Bush. (Wall Street and Congress come in for 21 and 11 percent, respectively.)

The Democratic Party, while not as popular as its leader, is still pretty popular, with 56 percent favorability. Moreover, 19 percent fewer respondents think the Democrats are too heavily influenced by "big business" than feel the Republicans are, and the Dems have a massive 35-point edge on the question of "which party is more concerned with the needs and problems of people like yourself." The poll also gives the Dems a 16-point edge in respondent self-identification, up from 10 points in February, and just a tick off the inaugural high of 18 points. (Without sifting through the figures too obsessively, this looks like the largest edge since 1992.)

There's more along these lines on taxes (74 percent of respondents think raising them on those earning over $250K is a "good idea"), health care (57 percent say they're willing to pay higher taxes themselves for universal coverage), foreign policy, and the like. The usual caveats all apply, of course--it's just one poll (though others seem to generally conform), public sentiment is volatile, etc., etc. Still, I encourage anyone interested to give the whole poll a look.

--Christopher Orr