Poll: Obama gets low marks for handling of issues despite support for agenda

President Obama’s top legislative items have strong public support, according to a new poll from The New York Times-CBS News, but the president is receiving low marks on his handling of those issues.

The survey comes days after the president rebuffed suggestions that he was losing political momentum and had failed to do enough to move key elements of his second-term agenda during his first 100 days.

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According to the poll released Wednesday, gun control reform, an Obama priority, has broad support, with nearly nine out of 10 saying they favor a bill that would expand background checks for gun buyers. 

Support for background checks spans all parties, getting 86 percent support from Republicans, 95 percent from Democrats and 83 percent from independents.

But only 41 percent said they approved of the president’s handling of the gun control issue, against 52 percent who said they disapproved. 

The White House has made a public push for gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, but has been met with opposition from many Republicans in Congress. Still, the public said it trusts congressional Republicans to handle gun control more than Obama by a margin of 51-44.

A bipartisan bill expanding background checks, endorsed by Obama, failed to get the 60 votes it needed to move forward in the Senate last month, and 59 percent in the poll said they were angry or disappointed with that outcome.

The poll finds support for the president’s policy agenda, but dissatisfaction with his management on other issues as well.

According to the survey, 83 percent also support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally as long as certain requirements are met. Obama has made immigration reform a priority and insisted that any plan passed by Congress legalize the status of illegal immigrants already in the country. 

The Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight has unveiled a bill including that measure, which holds support cutting across all parties, getting 84 percent backing from Republicans, 87 percent from Democrats and 90 percent from independents.

But despite congressional Republicans opposing efforts they paint as “amnesty,” voters prefer Obama over GOP lawmakers on immigration by only a 43-40 margin.

A strong majority – 57 percent – also agrees with the president that the deficit should be reduced through a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes. However, voters narrowly said they trust congressional Republicans, who are against tax increases of any kind, on the issue more than Obama, 42-41.

In a press conference marking the 100th day of his second term on Tuesday, Obama was pressed on why his commanding reelection win had not brought legislative victories.

“Maybe I should just pack up and go home,” said Obama. “Golly. You know, I think it’s a little, as Mark Twain said, you know, ‘Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated’ at this point."

Obama pointed to congressional Republicans and argued that they had obstructed his agenda. 

“I cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions,” he said. 

The survey of 965 adults was conducted from April 24-28.