As the fiscal cliff draws near, a new Zogby Poll shows President Barack Obama with more public support than he has had in years. The new poll of 795 likely voters nationwide, conducted Monday and Tuesday (December 3-4) and carries a margin of sampling error of +/-3.5 percentage points. President Obama's job approval rate is 53%, with 45% disapproving, his best numbers since early in his first term. Exactly half of the voters polled, 50% say they are optimistic about the next four years ago and the number of American voters who say that the US is headed in the right direction is up to 38%, with 47% saying things are off on the wrong track.

Now that the election is over a solid majority of 54% say that the best path for Congressional Republicans is to "put partisanship aside and support President Obama's agenda", while only 26% say they should "continue to oppose him on principle". The new poll also reveals that, regarding the cliff, President Obama has more support than anyone else: 35% say they "trust the President most on the fiscal cliff", another 8% trust the Congressional Democrats. Just 22% say they trust the Congressional Republicans, and, perhaps most telling of all, 25% don't trust anyone.

A majority of voters (51%) feel that in this current crisis President Obama has the best interests of the middle class, 43% say the Republicans. By a factor of 48% to 38%, voters feel that President Obama and the Congressional Democrats have a "mandate from the American people to enact the Democratic Party's platform" - although that includes only 17% of Republicans and 38% of independents.

Re-election mandates are always a sticky subject for Presidents. Franklin D. Roosevelt interpreted his huge victory in 1936 as a mandate for the New Deal and thus attempted to "pack the Supreme Court with supporters by raising the number of (favorable) judges on the highest court. He clearly went too far and neutralized his Congressional support for much of his second term. George W. Bush tried to "spend (my) political capital" by reforming Social Security and failed miserably. The Obama Administration has floated the possibility of pushing legislation that give the President power to increase the national debt limit without having to go back each time for Congressional approval. Voters give a flat and unequivocal "NO" to that idea. Only one in three (34%) support it, while 59% oppose it. At the same time, by about the same margin, 52% to 30%, voters do not want to ignore the fiscal cliff. They want action.

In my next piece, I will examine how voters view the specific proposals to deal with the fiscal cliff.