MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. President Obama entered office with a very high approval ratings. And whether we're talking about the laws of physics or the reality of politics, anything that rises that high can't stay there forever. This week, the gravitational forces kicked in. Mr. Obama's approval ratings have slipped for the first time in his short presidency, a five percent drop from 64 percent to 59, according to a new poll released today by the Pew Research Center.
And to help us make sense of this new poll is the Pew Research Center President Andy Kohut. He joins us here in the studio.
Welcome back to the program, Andy.
Mr. ANDY KOHUT (President, Pew Research Center): Happy to be here, Michele.
NORRIS: Well, it looks like President Obama's biggest problem is, and there's no surprise here, the economy. The majority still approve of how he's handling the economy. But if that's the case, where is the growing discord coming from?
Mr. KOHUT: There are three factors. One, we found in this survey, people thinking Obama is listening too much to the liberals in his party and not to the moderates - by a 44 to 30 percent margin, that was the case. Two months ago, it was just the opposite. When he was President-elect Obama, most people thought he was listening to the moderates.
Second factor is a bit of populist backlash that's operating here. There's still a divide about the Wall Street rescue, helping homeowners who took unaffordable mortgages, the public splits pretty evenly, 46 percent to 46 percent. And as many as 48 percent of the public said that they are angry about bailing out financial institutions that made bad decisions.
Even many of the people who favor the Wall Street bailout say they're angry about it. There's some of that and he's getting some of the heat there.
NORRIS: People are also very divided on how they view the deficit. Just a little over 30 percent say that they're very worried about this.
Mr. KOHUT: Very worried about it. Close to 35 percent say they're angry about the rising deficit, Republicans in particular, conservative Republicans obviously most concerned about this. But this is a problem for the public at large.
There's another factor in Obama's slippage here that has to be pointed out. And that is while there's a great deal of support for doing easy things, like more money for building roads and bridges and taxing wealthy people and cutting taxes for middle income people, when you get to some of these policy areas that make people nervous, you see some pushback.
So as Obama begins to deal with some of the specific policy realms such as entitlements and healthcare, the going is going to get a lot rougher than it was in getting money for bridges.
NORRIS: Now, Andy, we've been talking to you for years about public opinion polling as it pertains to Iraq. But in this case, you asked about the buildup in Afghanistan, and there was a real divide there, as well.
Mr. KOHUT: Fifty-five percent of the public thinks this is a good idea, but it's mostly Independents and Republicans who think that it's a good idea. Democrats, 45 percent or so, say it's a good idea. There is more concern with Democrats about the buildup in Afghanistan.
NORRIS: Is President Obama the only politician who's seeing this kind of decline in their overall ratings? I imagine they're starting to see some of this kind of movement on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue as well.
Mr. KOHUT: Absolutely. And in particular, the Republican Congressional Leadership is very poorly regarded. Only 28 percent said they approved of the -the job the Republican congressional leaders are doing. That's the lowest rating that we've had for that group in 15 years of polls.
NORRIS: And if people are thinking, if some of the people that you polled said that the president is listening too much to the liberal wing of his party, what do they think about Democrats on Capitol Hill?
Mr. KOHUT: Well, the Democrats get much better ratings at this point, but that's relative to the Republicans. The Republican Party is really in the doldrums.
NORRIS: All interesting. Thank you so much, Andy.
Mr. KOHUT: You're welcome.
NORRIS: Andrew Kohut is the president of the Pew Research Center.
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