PEEK

Public Mood Gets Better, Majority Thinks We're on the Right Track

Widespread pessimism about the country's direction has been the norm for the last six years.

President Obama's approval rating in the new AP poll is at 64%, which largely in line with other recent national surveys. The more interesting number, however, relates to public optimism.

For the first time in years, more Americans than not say the country is headed in the right direction, a sign that Barack Obama has used the first 100 days of his presidency to lift the public's mood and inspire hopes for a brighter future.

Intensely worried about their personal finances and medical expenses, Americans nonetheless appear realistic about the time Obama might need to turn things around, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. It shows most Americans consider their new president to be a strong, ethical and empathetic leader who is working to change Washington.

The AP poll found that 48% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction, up eight points from February, while 44% believe the nation is on the wrong track.

That's obviously pretty close, but it's nevertheless the first time in more than five years than the "right direction" number topped the "wrong direction" number. Even that last instance -- shortly after Saddam Hussein was captured -- was something of an aberration, and widespread pessimism about the country's direction has been the norm for the last six years.

Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing The Carpetbagger Report, and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, The American Prospect, the Huffington Post, and The Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show," and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."
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