Obama’s Popularity Is All About Perception

There should be no surprise with the recent poll findings showing President Obama with a 68% approval rating from the American public.  Since his election in November, through his inauguration and now by his daily announcements of new programs and plans to get the economy moving, President Obama has dominated the news.

For Americans looking for hope in a time of economic despair, President Obama is offering them something that they were longing for, a sense that someone is trying to get the economy moving.

What President Obama is really doing is brilliantly using all the public relations tools at his disposal to communicate his message.  By actively engaging the American public on a daily basis, he’s speaking directly to the voters that will ultimately influence how Congress votes.  A student of history, the president is following in the footsteps of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who steadied the anxiety of Americans when he took office during the Great Depression by speaking directly to the public via his radio fireside chats.

Roosevelt’s “New Deal” policies took many years to take effect and many argue that the country really did not emerge from the Depression until World War II. However, the sense of action and the way Roosevelt communicated this to the American public, gave the country the perception that things were getting better even as they continued to wait on soup lines.

The president is also continuing to use social media to contact the huge list of supporters that signed on for updates during his campaign.  Every new announcement merits an update to this list.

All of this has kept his approval ratings high during his first two months in office, even as the stock market has plunged around three thousand points, the economy sheds over 650,000 jobs per month, and AIG and General Motors stand on the brink of bankruptcy.

By staying connected to the voters themselves, President Obama is rising above the depressing economic news that emerges on an hourly basis. 

The public perception of the president for now is totally positive with the majority of Americans.  He’s trying to make things happen, and for that, the public is very supportive.

The question remains on how well this perception will last.  Will the public tire of the daily appearances by the president if the economic programs he proposes fail to re-start the economy?  When will the public get Obama fatigue? 

I think this is something the handlers of the president have to monitor closely.   It may become more effective to use cabinet members to announce and detail programs and save the president for when he’s needed most, to seal the deal by speaking to the voters. Of course, the president will ultimately choose to do what he feels best, regardless of what any handlers think or say.

What all of us can agree to, whether we voted for him or not, is that he is effectively using every public relations method possible to communicate to the American public.   

Tom Cosentino


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