OPTIMISM?…. The new poll from the Washington Post/ABC News covers a fair amount of ground, and the Post emphasizes the public’s willingness to place blame for the economy on almost everyone except the president.

The number of Americans who believe that the nation is headed in the right direction has roughly tripled since Barack Obama’s election, and the public overwhelmingly blames the excesses of the financial industry, rather than the new president, for turmoil in the economy, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

At this early stage in his presidency, Obama continues to benefit from a broadly held perception that others should bear the bulk of responsibility for the severe economic problems that confront his administration. Americans see plenty of offenders, but only about a quarter blame the president and his team for an economy that’s in the ditch.

That won’t last indefinitely, but two months into the Obama administration, these results are probably welcome at the White House.

Digging through some of the internal numbers, I was struck by an odd sense of growing optimism among poll respondents.

For example, the poll asked, “Do you think things in this country are generally going in the right direction or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track?” Given the crises, it’s not a surprising that a clear majority (57%) believe we’re on the wrong track. But the number of people who believe we’re going in the right direction is up to 42% — up from 8% in October, and at the highest level since April 2004.

Similarly, the same poll also asked, “Do you think the nation’s economy is getting better, getting worse or staying the same?” A total of 27% believe it’s getting better, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the highest number since 2004. Likewise, 36% believe the economy is getting worse, but that’s the lowest number since January 2007.

As for partisan confidence, asked who they trust to do a better job handling the economy, President Obama or congressional Republicans, 58% trust the president, while 25% favor GOP lawmakers.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.