Poll: Voters pessimistic as Obama prepares for second inauguration

President Obama is entering his second term with many of the nation’s voters still pessimistic or unsure about their economic prospects, a new poll for The Hill has found.

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The president was reelected for another four years by a relatively comfortable margin, but 39 percent of likely voters say his first four years were worse than expected, compared to just 18 percent who say he exceeded expectations. Forty-one percent of those polled said his first term went as expected.

The president assumed office in the midst of one of the worst financial meltdowns in U.S. history, and those polled are still feeling the ensuing recession’s impact four years later. On the economic front, 42 percent say they are worse off now than when Obama first took office, compared to 26 percent who say they are better off.

Respondents are not significantly more optimistic about the next four years, either. 

Sixty percent say they do not expect to make major economic strides during Obama’s second term, compared to just 38 percent who expect to be better off in 2016. 

Despite the lingering pessimism about the trajectory of the nation’s economy, the poll does offer a silver lining for the president as he prepares to take the oath of office again — by a 2-to-1 margin, voters blame Congress, instead of him, for the nation’s woes.

Fifty percent of those polled blamed Congress the most, compared to just 25 percent placing blame squarely at the feet of Obama. Another 10 percent apiece blamed voters and the media the most.

The president has faced off against lawmakers multiple times in his first term, and is set to butt heads again in the coming weeks over raising the debt limit, keeping the government funded and preventing automatic spending cuts set to take effect under the 2011 debt-ceiling deal.

Voters were split on whether Obama should focus his second term primarily on jobs and the economy or government spending and debt. 

Thirty-eight percent of those polled said the president should train his efforts on improving the economy, while 39 percent say his main goal should be addressing debt and deficits. Across income groups, only those making less than $30,000 were more likely to want the president to focus on the economy over the national debt.

Addressing immigration, gun violence, tax reform or something else each received single-digit support from those polled.

Views on whether Obama’s first term was a missed or exceeded opportunity largely broke down along partisan lines.

Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to say Obama missed expectations in his first term. Fifty-nine percent of GOP likely voters say the president was worse than their expectations, while 82 percent of Democrats said he either met or exceeded theirs. Forty-eight percent of voters who did not identify with a party said the president missed expectations, compared to 41 percent who said he met them, but did not exceed them.

When it comes to income, the voters most likely to say Obama failed to meet expectations are also those with the brightest outlook on the nation’s economy. Of those polled making over $200,000 in income, 48 percent say the president’s first term was worse than expected, compared to just 13 percent who say it was better.

But at the same time, 45 percent of those top earners say they are better off economically than they were when the president took office, and 47 percent expect to be even better off when Obama wraps up his second term.

Conversely, 50 percent of those making less than $30,000 say they are worse off now than four years ago, and 46 percent expect to be in even worse shape in 2016.

Pulse Opinion Research conducted the poll of 1,000 likely voters on May 17, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

--View poll full poll results here.