How America Changed Under Barack Obama

by Sarah Masih

"We do not ask you to believe in our ability to bring change; rather, we ask you to believe in yours."

- Barack Obama


Barack Obama served as the 44th President of the United States. Born on August 4th in 1961, he is rightfully known as a hero worldwide. He stands as a symbol of love and hope for colored communities all around America. By becoming the first president of color, he proved to the world that being American means more than what one looks like.



In 2017, when Mr.Obama stepped out of the White House for the last time, it was clear that whoever came next had big shoes to fill. Whether or not President Trump did so is a whole another story.


Barack Obama changed the way America saw the world and the way the world saw America.


Views of the U.S Government


Obama planned numerous great things during his presidency, but some people saw him as an intruder. Obama lost much support over the fact that he was a man of color. Citizens started to lose faith in the government because they thought that the Presidentpresident's title should belong only to a white man.



Americans' trust in the nation's political leaders hit its weakest level in the final year of Obama's presidency, holding at 42%. In 2009, the figure was 49%.


Confidence in the Supreme Court and Congress sank to drastic lows in 2014, at 30% and 7%, respectively.


Throughout the past eight years, Congress continuously received poor approval ratings, dropping to an annual low of 14% approval in 2013. By December 2016, a slight recovery had taken place, with support standing at 17%.


People knew that Obama was an incredible President, but somehow they did not want to give him credit. Obama's approval ratings were better than Congress but still lower than most presidents. However, towards the end of his presidency, most people would agree that he was the greatest President since World War II.


Though Obama spoke of bringing together the country, according to statistics, he was one of the most polarizing figures. However, this may be a trend. Before Barack Obama's presidency, George Bush was considered the most polarizing, and soon Donald Trump may hold that title.


It seems that the opposing parties disliked all presidents. Ronald Raegan and Richard Nixon were unpopular with the Democrats. The Republicans despised Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.


Sadly, Americans did not only lose confidence in elected officials but also the electorate. Before the 2016 election, only 56% of Americans said that they could trust their fellow citizens to make the right choice. Compared to 73% in 2009 that had such trust and confidence.


The lack of confidence in political systems helped contribute to Trump's victory. Trump has continuously labeled many government institutions as ineffective or corrupt.


Obama acknowledged the problem facing American democracy but was unable to provide a quick solution.


Social Issues


During the Obama era, many people felt it was safe to share their views on social issues. By 2016 32% of people identified as "socially liberal."



The best example of this issue is the legalization of same-sex marriage. In 2009, only 40% of people said that gay marriage should be valid, whereas the majority disagreed. By 2016, a year after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, 61% thought that gay marriage should be allowed.


Whether this related directly to Obama is unclear, but it is known that America had never had strong opinions about social issues.


There was a wave of confidence that hit many people during the era.


Americans felt that it was okay to voice their opinions about issues that were considered controversial.


Economic Issues



The Obama administration took over at a vulnerable time for the U.S. Obama left the American economy in a much better condition than when he first came into the White House.


In Obama's first year, 23% of Americans said that their financial conditions had already improved compared to the year before. In 2016, 44% of people claimed that they were better off financially. This 21-point shift represents one of the most significant changes in public responses.


Gallup measured the confidence of Americans in the economy through its Economic Confidence Index. The economy improved dramatically over Obama's terms. The index registered -54 in January 2009 and climbed to +9 by December 2016.


American workers reported that the amount of firing and hiring at their workplaces had improved over the eight years that Obama worked. This U.S Job Creation Index stood at -3 in January 2009 and by December 2016 had climbed up to +33.


The mention of economic issues facing the nation dropped from 79% to 29% by December 2016.


Even though Donald Trump called America an "economically ravaged country" during his campaign, it is clear that the American economy improved between 2009 to 2016.

The Position of the U.S in the world



Under Obama, more Americans believed that the U.S was seen favorably by the rest of the world. Only 45% of people thought that American was seen as useful in 2009. By 2016, those numbers rose to 54%. However, people were not satisfied with the position of the U.S in the world. Less than 36% were pleased with the U.S position in the world in 2016.


Though, those numbers had improved compared to 35% in 2011 and much better compared to 30% during Bush's final year in office.


American views of the U.S military position of the U.S had also fallen during the Obama era. In 2010, 64% of people said that the U.S had the best military power. By 2016, 49%, the numbers had dropped to 49%.


Some Americans even thought that the government spent "too little" on defense.


Eventually, the public lost confidence in the federal government to handle international affairs. In 2009, 62% believed in the federal government's ability to manage global problems. This number fell to 45% in 2015, before climbing back to a stable 49% in 2016.


A hugely controversial aspect of Obama's foreign policy was his decision to make diplomatic relations with Cuba and Iran. Obama and the Cuban government agreed to normalize relations between the two countries for the first time since 1961.


Other countries saw their public image improve. Countries like France received improved ratings.


However, countries also saw their public images decline. Iraq's dropped from 28% to 15% in the eyes of Americans. Furthermore, Russia, who was accused of interfering with the 2016 election, saw its rating fell from 40% to 30%.


Race Relations



One would think that having an African-American becoming the President would cause people to get over racial injustice. Sadly, by 2016 35% of Americans worried about race relations compared to 13% in 2010. During Obama's presidency, police brutality and bias cases rose.


Americans believe that Obama's election made race relations worse rather than better. In 2016 46% thought the former and 29% said the latter. These numbers changed drastically from 2009 when 41% believed Obama's election made race relations better, and 22% said it got worse.


Barack Obama presented America with so many opportunities. However, his presidency did not create a bridge for us to skip over and forget segregation and racism. Instead, it made America realize just how prominent racism still was.


"The future belongs to young people with education and imagination to create."

- Barack Obama



Sources

  1. https://news.gallup.com/poll/183605/confidence-branches-government-remains-low.aspx

  2. https://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/203123/america-changed-during-obama-years.aspx

  3. https://millercenter.org/president/obama/impact-and-legacy


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