More Americans say President Barack Obama divided the country, rather than bringing people together, according to a new poll.
Eight years after Obama’s election, a mere 27 percent say America is more united because of his presidency, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll. A great deal more, 44 percent, said Obama has left the country more divided.
“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” Obama said last January, in his final State of the Union address. Naturally, Obama did not not admit that pushing the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) through on a party line vote, or enforcing contraception — and even transgender surgery — mandates through the federal government might have produced this effect.
Oh, and there was the public denial of the Benghazi scandal, the IRS targeting of conservative groups, and quite a few other scandals that might explain why Obama’s presidency has divided the country.
Nevertheless, a full 57 percent of Americans said they view Obama favorably. At the end of his presidency, Bill Clinton had a similar 57 percent favorability, while President George W. Bush left office with a mere 40 percent, according to Gallup polling at the time. George H.W. Bush blew all three out of the water, however, taking a 62 percent favorability at the end of his term, despite his failure to win reelection.
Just over half of Americans described Obama’s presidency as great or good, but a full 66 percent said he did not keep his promises.
“He acted very presidential, but he just couldn’t get things done,” Dale Plath, a retired sales manager from Mason City, Iowa, told the Associated Press. Plath voted for Obama the first time, against him in 2012, and last year, he said, “I voted for change, frankly,” in the form of Donald Trump. “Yes, I understand the Republicans were against Obama,” Plath added. “but there have been other presidents in the same situation, and they were able to pull through.”
Even among the black community, Obama’s legacy remains complicated. Nearly 8 in 10 black Americans viewed the nation’s first black president favorably, but far fewer say his presidency has yielded the type of profound changes for black Americans they had hoped. Only 43 percent said Obama made things better for black people, while about half said there was no difference. Six percent said Obama has made things worse.
Ronald Thornton, a 62-year-old black man from Chicago, told the Associated Press that while he views Obama favorably, the promised “change” has only come at the margins. In fact, the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) hurt him personally. “The first year that it went into effect, I didn’t have insurance,” he admitted. “I was penalized for it that year, and I really don’t have money to pay for that penalty.”
Not surprisingly, Americans’ views of Obama broke along partisan lines. Nearly 9 in 10 Democrats and Americans who lean Democratic viewed him favorably, while 75 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning Americans had a negative view. Independents were roughly equally divided.
The AP-NORC poll surveyed 1,017 adults online, using landlines, and cell phones between December 14 and 19, 2016. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.
Even though more Americans might have a positive view of Obama, a majority also described America as being on the “wrong track.” 56 percent of Americans described the country going that way, according to the RealClearPolitics average. Only 31 percent said the country was on the “right track.” Let’s see what if Americans think the same way after Trump has been at the helm a few years.