January 13, 2010 / 7:43 PM / 8 years ago

Obama says he wishes he could foster more U.S. unity

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, facing humbling poll numbers nearly a year after taking office, acknowledged in an interview that he has not been able to bring the country together as he had hoped.

In a People magazine interview as part of his one-year anniversary observance, Obama said he was proud that a U.S. healthcare overhaul is on the brink of congressional passage and that the U.S. economy is on the rebound.

Asked where he would like to improve, Obama said he wanted to foster a greater sense of unity among Americans.

People provided an advance copy of its January 8 interview to be published on Friday.

“What I haven’t been able to do in the midst of this crisis is bring the country together in a way that we had done in the Inauguration,” he said, referring to last January 20 when hundreds of thousands flooded into Washington to see him sworn in as America’s first black president.

“That’s what’s been lost this year ... that whole sense of changing how Washington works,” he said.

A raft of public opinion polls provided a mixed picture of Obama’s year-old presidency.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday said Americans are split 45-45 percent on whether his first year has been a success or not, and split 35-37 percent on whether the country would be better off if Republican John McCain had won the 2008 election.

“President Barack Obama’s approval rating is dead even for the first time, which is more of a symbolic low than any large movement in public opinion against him,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

A CBS News poll released this week said 46 percent of Americans approved of Obama’s job performance, the lowest ever for him in CBS polling, as people registered their unhappiness with his handling of the economy and healthcare.

The U.S. jobless rate, currently stuck at 10 percent, is expected to remain high for months.

Republicans hope to take advantage of voter discontent with Obama and his Democratic Party in congressional elections in November by reducing or even ending strong Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Obama, asked what he had to say to people who are now feeling a bit deflated a year after his inauguration, said he inherited an economy that was worse than expected.

“They have every right to feel deflated because the economy was far worse than any of us expected,” he told People.

“The day I was sworn in, we now know that we were in the process of losing 650,000 jobs in December, 700,000 jobs in January, another 650,000 in March. So people rightly have been anxious this year,” he said.

Editing by Eric Walsh

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