WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama is riding a wave of good feeling toward him and his key Cabinet appointments, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — positive attitudes that may give him some breathing room for tough decisions ahead.

Soaring ratings for the way he has handled the presidential transition so far — more than three of four Americans express approval — contrast with a downbeat national mood over the economy.

By 69%-25%, those surveyed approve of Obama’s choice of former rival Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State.

By an even wider margin, 80%-14%, they support his decision to have President Bush’s Defense secretary, Robert Gates, stay on the job.