Updated at 9:05 a.m. on January 18.
After President Obama spoke at last week's memorial service in Tucson, it seemed that nearly everybody had good things to say about him. Obama's speech was praised across television networks and party lines, and a new poll from ABC News and The Washington Post shows that Obama’s own popularity seems to have benefited from it. The poll shows that 54 percent of the country now approves of Obama’s job performance, his highest rating in more than a year, a 5-point jump from last month, and an 8-point climb from September, when Obama’s numbers were at their all-time low in the poll.
A CNN poll also shows Obama's approval rating going up 5 points to a 53 percent rating from 48 percent.
With a nation in mourning, it may seem shallow to point out a president’s level of popularity, but a national tragedy can have a big impact on presidential approval ratings. Look no further than George W. Bush, whose numbers went into the 90s after 9/11.
But there’s more to the uptick in Obama’s numbers than just his response to the shootings in Tucson. This is also the first ABC/Washington Post poll to be taken after the extremely productive lame-duck session that ended the 111th Congress. During the lame duck, Congress tackled many of Obama’s agenda items, like the health bill for 9/11 first responders, a repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell," and the passing of the New START Treaty to pare back nuclear warheads here and in Russia.
By showing his legislative clout in the lame duck, and by showing his empathy for a distraught country in Tucson, Obama’s numbers have gone up across the board. Fifty-eight percent of those polled say Obama “understands the problems of people like you,” compared to 40 percent who say he doesn’t. These numbers even spill over into views of how Obama is handling the economy. There is still room for improvement, but now 35 percent of those polled say the president’s economic program is making the economy better, up from 30 percent in September.
Obama's numbers are still below what they were in the beginning of his presidency, and a new poll from USA Today shows how he might be able to continue the rise in popularity. According to this poll, 80 percent of Americans want Obama to work to pass legislation that Democrats and Republicans agree on, even if it's not the top priority for Democrats. Likewise, 83 percent of respondents said it was important for the Republican-controlled House to pass legislation that both parties agree on. The clear implication is that Americans want the government to get things done, not to be mired in gridlock.