Independent voters have a more nuanced view of Obama, but rely mostly on negative words to describe Palin.

More than half of Americans praise the intelligence of Barack Obama, but some cracks are appearing in the second year of his mandate, as a third of respondents believe that their president is out of touch, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample of 1,000 American adults, respondents were asked to select up to six words or phrases from a list to describe two politicians and two media personalities. This exercise, which has been used by Angus Reid Public Opinion in the past to review perceptions in Canada and Britain, facilitates an analysis based on emotional responses.

Barack Obama

At least three-in-ten respondents used one of seven words of phrases to describe Barack Obama. More than half of respondents (52%) said the U.S. President is intelligent. The three other positive responses were strong (32%), honest (31%) and compassionate (30%). Still, three negative words of phrases were used to describe Obama: out of touch (33%), arrogant (31%) and inefficient (30%).

Across party lines, at least half of Democrats think Obama is intelligent, strong, honest and compassionate, while most Republicans brand him as arrogant, out of touch, dishonest and inefficient. Independents have a more nuanced view, with 57 per cent calling Obama intelligent, and 39 per cent believing he is out of touch.

Sarah Palin

More than a third of respondents think Sarah Palin is foolish (37%). Three other negative words of phrases used to describe the former Republican Vice Presidential nominee are out of touch (32%), arrogant (31%), and inefficient (27%). About one-in-four respondents rely on two positive words: strong (27%) and intelligent (26%).

Across party lines, more than two-in-five Democrats regard Palin as foolish, out of touch and arrogant, while almost half of Republicans consider her intelligent, down to earth, strong and honest. Two-in-five Independents say Palin is foolish, and three-in-ten think she is arrogant and out of touch.

Jon Stewart

Almost half of respondents (47%) could not provide any words to describe Jon Stewart. The Comedy Central host is seen as intelligent (26%), in touch (20%) and honest (19%).

The word used the most by Democrats is intelligent, while Republicans countered with arrogant. One third of Independents also perceive Stewart as intelligent.

Glenn Beck

Two-in-five respondents (39%) did not know enough about Glenn Beck to choose any words or phrases. The conservative radio and television host is clearly a polarizing figure, with at least one-in-five Americans regarding him as arrogant (28%), intelligent (25%) and foolish (21%).

A third of Democrats think Beck is arrogant, while two-in-five Republicans consider him intelligent. Independents are almost evenly split when using these two words, with 30 per cent branding Beck as arrogant, and 28 per cent saying he is intelligent.


Partisan views paint a very clear picture of perceptions of the current president and one of his possible rivals in the 2012 election. Democrats maintain very positive views of Obama after his first year and a half in office, while Republicans regard Palin as a person who is honest and has the human touch. Independents—always a key voting component in presidential elections—are more likely to regard Obama as intelligent, but provide a scathing review of both politicians as being out of touch.

For the two television personalities, the ratings are significantly lower. Stewart seems to be connecting well with Democrats, while Beck earns a considerable amount of positive reviews from Republicans. However, while Independents are more likely to use positive words to describe Stewart, some negative phrases appear when they ponder how they feel about Beck.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)


Mario Canseco, Vice President, Communications & Media Relations
+877 730 3570

Methodology: From September 1 to September 2, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,000 American adults who are Springboard America panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of the United States.