Polls Up, Jobs Down

Obama has record approval, but economic gloom persists.

Today’s announcement of another 74,000 lost jobs—and estimates that 500,000 will be lost this month—is another sign that the nation is staring into the maw of a crisis that is severely reluctant to budge. (If you’re still reading, there’s a little good news from home sales and money supply.) While this might fuel support for Obama’s stimulus package, these ugly numbers are a reminder that the change Americans require most acutely is still in the distance. But stricter fuel efficiency standards and a few signs of public confidence in the new president offer the Change-o-Meter a little stimulus of its own, for a score today of 35 percent.

In the first Gallup poll since in the inauguration, 69 percent of respondents approve of the job Obama is doing, a near-record for the first week among post-World War II presidents and significantly higher than any president since Jimmy Carter. (George W. Bush posted numbers like that only between Sept. 11 and the early days of the Iraq War.) It’s still too early to usher in a new era of confidence in government, but the notion of a president with any sort of appreciable public backing is good enough for a few ticks on the meter. As Michael A. Fletcher wrote in the Washington Post today, “In his first week in office, Obama is giving clear signs that he is willing to trade on his own popularity, personal suasion and loose-limbed ease in the spotlight to help him lead the nation.”

Elsewhere in the different-from-Bush department, Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider applications by 14 states to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks that are more stringent than the national standards. EPA regulators are expected to reverse the Bush administration’s rejection of those applications. Last week, Lisa Jackson, Obama’s choice for EPA administrator, placed the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions at the top of her to-do list. Obama’s remarks today made another important mention of “sound science” as a cornerstone of environmental policy, echoing a similar statement in his inaugural address. As we mentioned in a recent chat about the Change-o-Meter, these major tonal shifts in a president’s public statements are significant, even if action and legislation will always speak louder than words.

Abroad, the European Union indicated that it is willing to work with the United States to house freed detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison, though many details still need to be ironed out.

To round out the day, the New York Times notes that, unlike the pre-recorded radio addresses of presidents past, Obama is delivering his weekly chats via YouTube. Perhaps “Fireside Vlog” doesn’t have the same folksy ring, but it certainly feels a little more 21st-century.