A Different Kind of "First 100 Days"

05/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

President Obama has called for "a new era of responsibility... Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency." Last week he pointed to "a confidence gap, when it comes to the American people... [and said] we've got to earn their trust."

So, when it comes to responsibility and openness, how is Mr. Obama doing? Is he working to restore the trust and confidence of the American people? Has he delivered on his promise of more transparency?

This week I, along with Professor Clark Roof, Director of the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life at UC Santa Barbara, will be putting a different kind of 100 Days poll into the field. Entitled, "The First 100 Days - Integrity, Leadership, Trust," its purpose is to gather and report the grades Americans give Mr. Obama in those qualities they consider most vital.

Last November, in a nationwide, post-election poll, Clark and I asked Americans "What one or two qualities do you think the country needs most from the new president?" More than 3,300 Americans said that the country needs Honesty, Integrity and Leadership most.

On the occasion of his first 100 days in office, Clark and I will not only be asking Americans to rate President Obama's overall performance, but grade both him and Congress in terms of honesty, integrity and leadership, as well as transparency.

Among the additional questions the poll will examine is the level of confidence the public has in Obama's leadership in fixing the economy, working with Congress and restoring the public's trust in government.

In a 2006 study, "Honesty and Trust in America," Congress was given the lowest numbers of trustworthiness at 76%, with President Bush and corporate leaders tied at 67% of "low" numbers. The Capps "First 100 Days" poll, conducted by Zogby International, will ask Americans to grade both Republicans and Democrats in Congress with respect to honesty, transparency, and restoring the public's trust in government.

Unlike other "100 Days" surveys, the Capps poll is a longitudinal study in that we have responses at two points in time: post-election and 100 days out. The poll also seeks to learn how Americans view the president's handling of issues, such as the war in Iraq, health care and taxes.

Last November's post-election study found that Americans want from the president "[a] clear vision to unify the country... [a] sense of personal responsibility ...complete honesty [and] unquestionable integrity."

"The First 100 Days - Integrity, Leadership, Trust" seeks to determine if Mr. Obama has succeeded in raising the level of confidence in leadership and whether both he and Congress have begun to restore the public's trust in government.

Results to be released soon.

Jim Lichtman has been writing and speaking on ethics to corporations, associations and schools since 1995. His commentaries can be found at