CBS poll

CBS POLL…. The response to the controversial AIG bonuses last week included widespread public disgust. Republicans didn’t have anything resembling a coherent policy response, but they seized on the issue anyway as a cudgel with which to beat the White House, Tim Geithner, and anyone else they could think of.

What kind of impact did this have in terms of public opinion? It’s a bit of a mixed bag. There’s bad news for the administration….

For the first time since he became president, a significant number of Americans are expressing disapproval of Barack Obama’s actions in a specific area: His handling of the AIG bonus situation.

…and good news for the administration.

Despite the middling reviews for his handling of the bonuses, however, the president continues to get high marks overall for his job performance and his handling of the economy.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed disapprove of the president’s handling of the AIG bonuses, while roughly the same percentage — 41 percent — approve. Another 17 percent don’t know or aren’t sure.

Yet President Obama’s overall job performance rating appears unaffected by the AIG fallout. Sixty-four percent approve of the president’s performance, roughly the same as last week.

And ratings for the president’s handling of the overall economy are actually up slightly: Sixty-one percent now approve, up from 56 percent last week.

The CBS News poll suggests there’s a reasonable explanation for the seemingly contradictory results: Americans disapprove of the AIG bonuses, and would have liked to see the administration block them, but voters don’t hold the administration responsible for the payments.

The same poll found that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, despite a week of fairly intense criticism, still fares relatively well with the public, with a majority (54%) expressing some level of confidence in Geithner. The results, though, showed a considerable partisan divide — Democrats back Geithner (69% have confidence in him), Republicans don’t (35% have confidence), and Independents are closer to the poll’s top line (51%).

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation