As President Barack Obama serves his final year in office, the nation will attempt to evaluate his legacy. Was the Affordable Care Act a step forward or a step back? Did Obama’s policies improve the economy? And how did the president handle the threat of terrorism?
Naturally, opinion will be mixed, and in some cases, extremely polarized. Gun rights advocates believe Obama overstepped by issuing executive orders; gun control proponents don’t think the president has done enough. In 2013, a Gallup poll reported that Americans see the Affordable Care Act as both Obama’s biggest success and failure.
Despite all the disagreement today, however, presidential legacies have a habit of becoming more clear over time. For example, America’s impression of former President George H. W. Bush has improved significantly since he left office. Meanwhile, Americans view President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq very negatively now, despite popular support at the time.
With this in mind, InsideGov looked at the past year’s worth of CNN/ORC polling to gauge how America might come to remember the 44th president. Specifically, we tracked 14 surveys from December 2014 to January 2016, calculating the extent to which Americans approved or disapproved of the commander in chief across key issues like the economy, health care and terrorism.
For a few polling questions, more Americans approved than disapproved of the president's stance or the contents of his proposals, as we’ll see later on this list. While it’s still very early, it’s possible these initiatives will be counted among Obama’s successes.
Meanwhile, there were several more areas where more Americans disapproved than approved of Obama’s performance, on average. We don’t know whether history will come to define these areas as outright failures for the administration. But the polling data suggests America could potentially criticize Obama on these particular topics in the years to come.
We've organized the list into nine overall categories: foreign affairs, terrorism, Iran, ISIS, climate change, the economy, health care, gun policy, and overall job performance. While Americans disapprove of Obama's performance, on average, across all nine categories, the polling results were much more negative in some categories than others. We'll start with the least negative category (climate change), then count down to the most negative of all. For some categories, we'll also explore a series of more specific polls to draw out the details of the issue.
Further notes: Each CNN/ORC poll surveyed at least 1,000 American adults, then weighted the results to reflect the general U.S. population. For some questions, we combined responses like “somewhat likely” and “very likely” to represent one overall “likely” response.
Each visualization contains a link directly to a PDF containing the raw data for the corresponding poll.