Like the cute but overlooked friend waiting in the wings in every boilerplate romantic comedy, Barack Obama, it turns out, is the president America has always been in love with—it just needed time to figure out. That, or in the midst of a particularly ugly campaign season, people are waking up to the fact that whatever the current president’s faults may be, the next one could be a lot worse.
According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday, Obama’s approval ratings are now the highest they’ve been since his second inauguration. Unsurprisingly, the numbers fall along partisan lines, with 88 percent of Democrats and just 8 percent of Republicans approving of the job Obama is doing. But the president scored above 50 percent among self-described independents, which confirms a polling trend that’s been consistent for months: Most Americans actually like Obama.
Right now, being liked is a pretty rare thing for US politicians. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, for instance, are widely hated, even though millions of people cast primary ballots for each of them. Congress is even more despised: Only 11 percent of likely voters think it’s doing a good job, according to a recent poll from Rasmussen. In the 2016 primary, Republicans hated their own party so much that they backed a reality TV star over a dozen Establishment candidates, while a sizable number of Democrats are so unhappy with the political status quo that they’ve thrown their support behind Bernie Sanders, a candidate the media largely dismissed as hopeless. And poll after poll has shown that Americans of all political persuasions think the country is on the wrong track.
In this environment, it doesn’t seem to make sense that a sitting president should be popular. Yet Obama remains liked, if not loved. The Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement, is still disparaged by most Americans, but that doesn’t seem to be affecting his personal popularity. For years, the left has complained about the president’s habit of governing as a cautious technocrat, yet Sanders supporters, who claim to be agitated and agitating for change, overwhelmingly favor him, according to that NBC/WSJ poll. read more