Presidential Perceptions: Tufts Students Weigh in on Obama

Three years ago, millions packed up blankets and coolers of food and gathered at the National Mall to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Signs and banners spoke to the  hope for change, celebrating the political progress Americans saw in Obama’s election.

But substantial change didn’t come immediately. At first, some dissatisfied citizens attributed the lack of much-awaited progress to the obstacles of doing “damage control” before more weighty change could be pursued. Now, many believe that significant change is still a foreign concept. Hopes for a functional health care system, strong economy, and powerful nation are becoming farther and farther from reach.

With the approach of the 2012 election, Obama’s current standings are a source of much speculation. Tracing the trajectory of the national mood,  popularity ratings have moved all over the charts. Despite downward spirals in his ratings, Obama has recently become more popular among Americans. Though his policies remain in question, the president himself has moved into a far more positive light.

Based on a survey conducted by Gallup Daily, President Obama’s approval rating is now at 48%. While low in terms of the imminent election, ratings have been on the rise since hitting some low points during the summer of 2010, with numbers lingering around 41-43%.

Still, the question remains: in the context of his shaky, though on the rise, ratings, do Americans—and more specifically Tufts students—consider Obama’s term a success?

Anna Burgess

Jonathan Danzig, Editor in Chief of Tufts’ conservative political publication The Primary Source, offers a two-pronged response. Danzig said that while Obama has transformed promises into hard legislation, his initiatives have yet to manifest in tangible change.

“His campaign has been successful in the sense that much of the legislation he has wanted passed has gotten passed,” Danzig said. “But [it’s been] unsuccessful in that the economy is still lagging, the federal budget continues to grow, and there does not appear to be any long-term solution of the deficit.”

Despite certainty about his policies, many Tufts students place continued support and optimism in Obama’s ability to lead the country through crisis.Tufts freshman Rachel Bloom remains sympathetic to the President’s cause. “I think the country was looking for a hero to fix the nation’s problems. The way congress is structured though, it would be impossible for anyone, left or right, to solve everything in four years.”

Freshman Paul Pemberton maintains high hopes that Obama will emerge victorious from the 2012 election.“The Republicans don’t have anyone who can beat him, but I think that it’s going to be a closer election than people are anticipating. What he does to sort out what’s going on in Egypt is going to define how people see him,” he said.

The current crisis in Egypt, coupled with healthcare and the economy, are just some of what are considered the ‘defining factors’ of Obama’s presidency.

Unlike his Tufts’ peers, Danzig is not as optimistic about Obama’s chances. “If the 2010 elections are any indicators, he will have a tough path to reelection in 2012,” he said. “While he has the advantage of incumbency, the Republican nominee will have the advantage of running against what are very unpopular policies.”

According to Democratic operative Eric Berman, the 2012 election will see Obama struggle to tie down a campaign strategy—one he fears might compromise the principles that slid him to number one in the first place.“What is harmful to him is the opportunity cost of having failed to deliver on the key issue facing his presidency—jobs and the economy—and the appearance of not even caring about it,” said Berman. As a result, I fear he’ll overcompensate and position himself not as a moderate but as a Republican-ite.”

Still, hard facts show that following trends of hesitancy and mistrust, Americans are regaining their former optimism. As pundits and politicians speculate on the 2012 election, they look to the people’s evolving perspective on the government’s role in their lives, America’s role in the world, and the truth of the notion that change takes time.

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