Polls find rising concern with Obama on key issues

WASHINGTON Thu Jun 18, 2009 6:52pm EDT

President Obama speaks at the White House in Washington, June 17, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Obama speaks at the White House in Washington, June 17, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama faces growing concerns among voters over government spending, the auto industry bailout and other economic policies, according to two opinion polls released on Wednesday.

Obama, who took office in January, remains popular with Americans, although his overall job approval rating slipped to 56 percent, down 5 points from April, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

But 58 percent of respondents said Obama and Congress should focus on keeping the budget deficit down, even if takes longer for the economy to recover. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the federal deficit could top $1.8 trillion this fiscal year -- by far a record.

Nearly 70 percent said they had concerns about federal intervention in the economy, including Obama's decision to take an ownership stake in General Motors and the prospect of more government involvement in healthcare. Obama has made healthcare reform a top priority of his administration.

Just 37 percent of respondents said Obama was taking on too many issues and 60 percent said he had to focus on so many things because the United States was facing so many problems.

While Republican criticism of the Democratic president's policies may be scoring points with voters, the strategy does not appear to be benefiting the party.

A CBS News/New York Times poll also released on Wednesday found the Republican Party viewed favorably by only 28 percent of Americans, the lowest rating ever in the poll. In contrast, 57 percent had a favorable view of the Democratic Party.

The CBS/New York Times poll also found a distinct difference in Obama's overall standing and how Americans viewed his major initiatives.

Obama's job approval rating held steady at 63 percent from the previous poll last month, but fewer than half of respondents approved of how he was handling healthcare reform and efforts to save GM and Chrysler, according to the survey.

The poll also found that Americans were alarmed by the amount of money doled out to boost the economy and a majority thought the government should focus instead on reducing the federal deficit.

Both polls also found a majority of Americans opposing Obama's decision to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal survey of 1,008 adults, conducted Friday to Monday, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The CBS/New York Times telephone poll of 895 adults was conducted Friday through Tuesday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.

(Reporting by Joanne Allen; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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