WASHINGTON (AP) — Nice guy, so-so president.
Taking stock of President Barack Obama at the five-year mark in his term, less than a third of Americans consider him to be an above-average chief executive. Nearly twice as many find him likable.
A new Associated Press-GfK Poll finds the president's personal image to be on the rebound after taking a hit during the government shutdown late last year, with 58 percent now sizing him up as very or somewhat likable. That's up 9 percentage points from October, just after the shutdown.
Yet as Obama prepares to stand before Americans for his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, people are largely pessimistic about the country's direction, down on the condition of the economy and doubtful it will bounce back anytime soon. Unemployment? Seventy percent think it will go higher or stay the same.
Obama "wasn't a total disappointment," allows Joshua Parker, a 37-year-old small businessman in Smyrna, Tenn. "He didn't put us into a Great Depression."
But Parker, a self-described political independent and conservative, suspects that someone who understood the economy better could have done more.
"He would probably be a guy I would like to hang out with if he wasn't president," says Parker. "But I like a lot of people who are not qualified to be president."
Across the country, Democrat Sabrina Carag, a 58-year-old retired accountant in Pleasanton, Calif., gives the president higher marks on both performance and personality.
If things aren't great in the country, this former Republican reasons, it's the fault of her old party and the Republicans in Congress.
"They block him every step of the way," says Carag. "I don't think it's fair for them to say he's been a bad president. How can you do anything if your hands are tied?"