Politics Counts: Obama Faces Suburb/Exurb Divide

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By most any measure President Barack Obama’s second-term inauguration on Monday will be different from the first. It will be smaller and less rousing. And like most every incumbent, he’ll be facing a much more skeptical electorate.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows a big dip in the number of voters who feel optimistic about how Mr. Obama will do in his second term compared to how voters felt four years ago about his first term. Only 51% of those surveyed are “optimistic or satisfied” that “he will do a good job,” down from a remarkable 66% in January of 2009.

But the feelings are far from uniform. While the bloom is off the rose for Mr. Obama with some people and places, others are feeling pretty good about four more years.

There’s a clear split along racial lines. Less than half of white Americans, 48%, say they feel good about a second Obama term. In 2009 60% of whites were optimistic. Meanwhile, nearly nine in 10 African Americans, 87%, say they feel optimistic or satisfied about a second Obama administration. That’s down from 94% in 2009, but still obviously a very strong number.

There is a split on income. Among those making $75,000 or less, 54% are optimistic or satisfied about a second Obama term. Among those making more than $75,000, only 44% feel that way. In 2009, 58% or more were optimistic or satisfied across all income categories.

But the most important Obama divide to keep your eye on this year is the one between urban, suburban and rural places.

Urban America is still strongly in Mr. Obama’s corner, 66% say they are optimistic or satisfied. That’s down from 2009’s 74%, but not sharply. The suburbs have grown more skeptical with only 48% saying they are in the optimistic/satisfied camp. In 2009, 63% of the people in suburbs were feeling positive about Mr. Obama’s first term. And rural America is particularly gloomy about the next four years, with only 35% saying they are optimistic or satisfied. In 2009, 58% in rural America thought Mr. Obama would do a good job in the White House.

A couple of things stand out there. ... For the rest of this Politics Counts column, please visit the Wall Street Journal's website. You'll need a subscription.