Schenectady, N.Y. More than half the nation disapproves of President Barack Obama’s policies to reduce stubbornly high unemployment, a new Associated Press-GfK poll said Friday as Obama refocused his job-creation efforts on a business-friendly vision emphasizing innovation and exports to other countries.
Marking the halfway point in his four-year term, the president used a visit to Schenectady, birthplace of the General Electric Co., to declare that his job is “putting our economy into overdrive” and to announce a restructured presidential advisory board stressing increased employment and greater business opportunities abroad.
“America’s home to inventors and dreamers and builders and creators,” Obama told workers at G.E.’s 23-acre turbine and generator plant. “You guys are a model of what’s possible.”
The trip came as a new AP-GfK poll showed more than half the nation disapproving the way Obama is handling the economy, 53 percent to 47 percent. That’s actually a bit more favorable than two months ago, but those who say they see economic improvement has dropped to just 35 percent from 38 percent in August and 40 percent a year ago.
Lack of hope is greatest with lower-income people and those in the Northeast and the West, signaling potential political trouble spots for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Obama’s New York visit was the first of many treks during the second half of his term that the president is expected to take to put a more hopeful countenance on the economy amid high unemployment — now at 9.4 percent. Yet, while the White House was eager to highlight economic successes such as General Electric, Obama took pains not to oversell an optimistic view to a skeptical public.
“It’s a great thing that the economy is growing, but it’s not growing fast enough yet to make up for the damage that was done by the recession,” he said.
Overall, 53 percent of Americans approve of how Obama is governing, and that includes a narrow majority of all-important independent voters. The job approval numbers represent a slight uptick from November and come after Obama negotiated with Republicans on a tax package and sought to build bridges with the business community.
Displaying stepped-up outreach, Obama on Friday named GE’s chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, as the head of a Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The panel replaces Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which had been chaired by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. Obama announced late Thursday that Volcker, as expected, was ending his tenure on the panel.
Immelt has been an advocate of alternative forms of energy, and the GE facility Obama visited, the company’s largest energy plant, is the future site of GE’s advanced battery manufacturing program. New battery technology has become something of an Obama pet project as a symbol of innovation, clean energy and job creation
The trip followed on the heels of a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao that featured announcement of new trade deals worth about $45 billion and vows to ease restrictions on U.S. investments in China.
“We want to open up their markets so we have two-way trade, not just one-way trade,” the president said.