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Obama Approval at Record Low

President Obama’s approval numbers are at an all-time low according to a new CBS-NYT poll.

CBS (“Poll: Obama’s approval rating sinks to new low“):

President Obama’s approval rating has hit the lowest level ever in CBS News polling, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times survey. The drop may be partially attributable to rising gas prices.

Just 41 percent of Americans approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president, according to the poll, conducted from March 7 to 11. Another 47 percent disapprove of his performance, up from 41 percent last month.

Mr. Obama’s approval rating was 50 percent last month.

The average U.S. price of a gallon of gasoline has jumped 12 cents over the past two weeks. The poll found that most Americans, 54 percent, believe gas prices are something a president can do a lot about.

Americans have historically felt that a president can control gas prices, though experts attribute changes to a variety of factors, many outside of a president’s control. They also felt this way when gas prices spiked during the administration of former President George W. Bush.

[...]

Mr. Obama’s job rating on the economy remains about the same as it was last month – 39 percent approve, while 54 percent disapprove.

The economy and jobs remains the most important problem facing the country today, according to 51 percent of Americans. Three in four Americans think the economy is at least somewhat bad, including 30 percent who say it is very bad.

More Americans, 30 percent, say the economy is getting better; 24 percent say it is getting worse. The public’s economic outlook was slightly better last month, when 34 percent said the economy was getting better.

Just 20 percent of Americans feel their family’s financial situation is better today than it was four years ago. Another 37 percent say it is worse, and 43 percent say it is about the same.

While his rating on the economy is about the same as last month, Mr. Obama’s rating on foreign policy has dropped 10 points. Now, just 40 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy, while 41 percent disapprove. This is the first time since the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 that more Americans disapprove than approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing handling foreign policy.

Amid speculation that Israel may consider attacking Iran to stop its nuclear ambitions, Americans are split on the president’s handling of the situation in Iran: 42 percent approve, while nearly as many – 39 percent – disapprove. Nineteen percent don’t know.

NYT (“Obama’s Rating Falls as Poll Reflects Volatility“):

Despite improving job growth and an extended Republican primary fight dividing his would-be opponents, President Obama is heading into the general election season on treacherous political ground, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

At a time of rising gas prices, heightened talk of war with Iran and setbacks in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama’s approval rating dropped substantially in recent weeks, the poll found, with 41 percent of respondents expressing approval of the job he is doing and 47 percent saying they disapprove — a dangerous position for any incumbent seeking re-election.

The poll provides a statistical reminder of how unsettled and unpredictable this year’s political landscape remains. Just one month ago, Mr. Obama reached a critical benchmark by winning approval from 50 percent of Times/CBS News poll respondents, his re-election prospects lifting along with confidence that the nation was finally emerging from the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Given that we saw similar results in yesterday’s WaPo-ABC poll, I’m confident that this is an accurate reflection of current public sentiment. Like Doug, I find the notion that the president has much control over gas prices silly, but it’s just a fact of life that presidents get blamed for, well, pretty much everything.

Similarly, even as someone likely to vote for Mitt Romney in November, I’m amazed at the 47 percent disapproval number on foreign policy. While I predicted at the time that the post-OBL killing high wouldn’t last, I presumed there would nonetheless be some residual credibility. For that matter, while I opposed the Libya intervention, the taking out of Gaddafi without a single American casualty would seem to be one in the president’s column. Without follow-up questions, then, it’s really hard to know what to make of the number here. Is the gas prices issue also influencing perception of foreign policy? The constant hammering on Israel? The Iran question? What?

Regardless, since Americans typically vote on pocketbook issues and not foreign policy, the volatility of the numbers is indeed the key takeaway here. I’m reminded of the precipitous fall of George H.W. Bush from his post-Gulf War victory high to November defeat. There, though, we had a faltering economy, a lackadaisical domestic policy (John  Sununu essentially tried to run out the clock), a charismatic Southern Democratic in opposition, and the Ross Perot wild card.

It’s true that the economy remains mired in bad shape and that the public was skeptical from beginning about the stimulus package and other steps taken by the administration to right the ship. But the economy’s not any worse than it was a month ago, when the president was over the 50 percent threshold. Nor have any major scandals broken since then. Is this really all over gas prices?

In terms of November, it of course remains a long way off. It’s pretty clear that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee at this point. Despite some awkwardness and an insistence on signing corny songs on the stump, he’ll be a formidable opponent.  Indeed, if the president doesn’t get above 41 percent approval, he’ll have a hard time holding on to his job.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Liberal Capitalist says:

    The poll found that most Americans, 54 percent, believe gas prices are something a president can do a lot about.

    Yeah, well, over 90% of Americans believe in an invisible sky pal that takes an active part in their lives, and can be petitioned to intervene in activities of their lives via secret mental communication.

    Citation: http://thenewamerican.com/culture/faith-and-morals/7808-gallup-more-than-90-percent-of-americans-believe-in-god

    Nothing really surprises me.

    Many people are intentionally ignorant. Especially when it benefits their imagined world view.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 5

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Like Doug, I find the notion that the president has much control over gas prices silly, but it’s just a fact of life that presidents get blamed for, well, pretty much everything.

    Not to mention that doubling down on it by touting the president’s record on energy (as the White House did yesterday) feeds the idea that the president has more influence on gas prices than he really does.

    Foreign policy? Maybe I should do a little table on foreign policy analogous to the one on the economy I did yesterday. The default position on foreign policy for most Americans is isolationism. In that context not getting credit for Libya makes all the sense in the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. bandit says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Many people are intentionally ignorant. Especially when it benefits their imagined world view.

    Obama’s counting on their votes in Nov.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 18

  4. Galanti says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    There are a few polls that I regularly call BS on; polls about religious faith and masturbation top the list. Take heart, I’d be surprised if the true number of believers went anywhere near 20%.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Jeremy R says:

    Gallup has the president at 49/43, the current highpoint of recent upward trend:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/153194/Obama-Job-Approval-Rating-Reaches-Weekend.aspx

    March 12, 2012

    President Barack Obama’s job approval rating rose to 49% in the three-day period from Friday through Sunday, building on an upward trend that began the middle of last week. Obama’s current approval rating is the highest measured since early February, and before that the highest since June 2011.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Ben Wolf says:

    @Dave Schuler: There has never been a tradition of isolationism in this country. Intervention has always been the norm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. When we have people like Gingrich spouting lies and a media who just lets him get away with his lies,then the idiots who vote without looking for facts, this is what we get. I wish we had a show that was all facts and anyone caught lying would be fired or fined publicly. I wonder if many would want to hear only the truth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    There has never been a tradition of isolationism in this country. Intervention has always been the norm.

    Complete ahistorical poppycock.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Franklin says:

    @bandit:

    Obama’s Every politician is counting on their votes in Nov. every election since the dawn of time.

    Fixed that for you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  10. Ben Wolf says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Complete ahistorical poppycock.

    I’m afraid North American natives, the french, Canada, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Mexico, California, Japan, China, the Phillipines, Spain, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Europe, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinians, Israel, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan to name a few would disagree with you. The U.S. has always claimed desire to mind its own affairs while simultaneously interfering in the affairs of others, usually with bombs and bullets.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. Rob in CT says:

    There were “isolationists” (where “isolationist” means “don’t trip over yourself to get into wars”)but they lost. Repeatedly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Tano says:

    I’m confident that this is an accurate reflection of current public sentiment

    So James, how do you then explain that Rasmussen, yes Rasmussen!!!, has Obama approval at 49%?

    Another thing to keep in mind – the polling that shows O approval at 41, has disapproval at 47. That adds up to 88%. The rest have no opinion – a rather large percentage here, and anyway those folks don’t really count. Usually these NYT-CBS polls get 92-93% with an opinion. In any case, the relevant number here is a -6 net approval. That is a bit lower than Rasmussen’s -2, but it is not in any way shape or form “historically low”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. PD Shaw says:

    @Ben Wolf: I think you and Dave are talking about something different. I believe Dave is essentially pointing out that in polls, the American public tends to value isolationist postitions on foreign policy, military actions and trade. Its the elites in Washington, from both parties, who are interventionist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. mannning says:

    Perhaps the public is becoming aware of the specter of war with Iran and minions real soon now, coupled with the rather two-faced approach of this administration on the plight of Israel. With the national debt topping $15T, the deficit going to $1T+ this year, a possible war in the offing with a big price tag if it happens, job recovery not really making big strides at all, a coming tax increase, the impact of Obamacare not well understood, housing and financing (possible QE again) not perking up, gas prices heading up to a hard impact on people, and the administration touting really hefty cuts to the military just to make things interesting for the job market, it is easy to see how a goodly percentage of the public would be leery of Obama and his czars at this juncture, both for domestic and foreign reasons.

    One expects that by November a rosy picture will have been painted in the rain for us to see on all of this. So, watch out for January! Whoever wins will have a terrible mess to cope with, including the roses.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  15. An Interested Party says:

    …coupled with the rather two-faced approach of this administration on the plight of Israel.

    Yes, of course, because not toeing the Likud Party line is a complete betrayal of Israel…

    With the national debt topping $15T, the deficit going to $1T+ this year, a possible war in the offing with a big price tag if it happens, job recovery not really making big strides at all, a coming tax increase, the impact of Obamacare not well understood, housing and financing (possible QE again) not perking up, gas prices heading up to a hard impact on people, and the administration touting really hefty cuts to the military just to make things interesting for the job market…

    Oh my, the end is near! Whoever can save us from all this gloom and doom? Why, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum…maybe even both!

    One expects that by November a rosy picture will have been painted in the rain for us to see on all of this.

    Damn lamestream media…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Ben Wolf says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I think you and Dave are talking about something different. I believe Dave is essentially pointing out that in polls, the American public tends to value isolationist postitions on foreign policy, military actions and trade. Its the elites in Washington, from both parties, who are interventionist.

    But as a student of history you’re aware interventionism isn’t a new phenomenon, but one which began before the ink was dry on the Constitution. Americans may poll in favor of not getting involved but their passivity in the face of foreign adventures is tantamount to implicit approval. It also seems odd to suggest isolationism is a key aspect of public opinion for a nation in which the concept of Manifest Destiny was (and I would argue is) almost universally embraced.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. KariQ says:

    Somehow, the title of this article seems relevant: President Barack Obama Approval Rating Drops In Two Polls, Remains Steady On Others

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/obamas-approval-rating-poll_n_1342104.html?ref=@pollster

    It’s never a good idea to overemphasize any individual poll, especially when that poll is telling you what you want to hear. We don’t really know, at this point, if his approval is dropping or not, but if it is the movement is probably pretty small.

    I also don’t get the whole “gas prices are killing the president’s approval!” theme that’s going around. Are prices significantly higher than the were last week when the NBC/WSJ poll showed him with a 50% approval? I know that around here, the change has been insignificant. So, frankly, I’m not really buying the argument that there’s been this dramatic turnaround in the last week.

    Now, it’s possible the NBC/WSJ poll was a little on the high side, and CBS and ABC is a little on the low side. In fact, I think that’s really the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. superdestroyer says:

    @bandit:

    During the Bush Adminstration, Pelosi had hearings on the price gouging of the oil companies. Now that the Democrats are in charge, progressives are claiming that the government has nothing to do with the price of gasoline.

    so, were the progressives liars when they tried to blame the Bush Adminstration for the price of gasoline?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. mannning says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Who said anything about candidates anyway? You. Obviously, you do not sympathize with the average Joe here that puts those real problems together and then looks for someone to blame. Of course, the current fourth-year President is immediately in his sights…and he is the traditional target for all the ills felt by our society.

    But, you are absolutely right! It IS a doom and gloom situation. Somehow, I do not believe we have the right man and his clones in the White House and the Senate to solve them, yet there is a chance that they will be renewed come November by the idiots that vote for them. Even some that post here.
    .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Pylon says:

    “Price gouging of the oil companies” is only blaming the Bush Adimintsration if you assume that they are one and the same. Is that your point?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Who said anything about candidates anyway?

    Umm, and who would replace the President if he were defeated in November? A space alien, perhaps?

    Obviously, you do not sympathize with the average Joe here that puts those real problems together and then looks for someone to blame.

    Actually, I don’t sympathize with people who try to scapegoat the President for all of our country’s problems…you know, people like you…

    Somehow, I do not believe we have the right man…

    Hence, why I brought up Romney and Santorum…unless you had someone else in mind to replace the President? Hey, maybe Reagan can somehow be brought back from the dead…of course, many of today’s Republicans/conservatives would consider him a RINO…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. Tano says:

    Usually its Doug who gives us these breathless posts about “new lows” based on a single poll – or hey, one and a half here.

    So what are the odds that tomorrow will bring a post that in some sense draws grand existential conclusions based on the topline of the latest new poll – this one from Reuters/Ipsos:

    Obama’s approval rating up to 50 percent: Reuters/Ipsos poll

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. mannning says:

    @An Interested Party:

    That is just the ticket! You go dig him up and ready him for action, and if you succeed, I will vote for him! Much better persona than the current candidates or Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  24. An Interested Party says:

    You go dig him up and ready him for action, and if you succeed, I will vote for him!

    Awwww…sadly for you, that option isn’t available…guess you’ll be sitting this election out…what the hell, just write Reagan’s name in as a protest vote…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. The stupid vote is larger than I thought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. KariQ says:

    Funny, so far no pollster has tested the Zombie Reagen vs. Obama horse race. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Yeah, well, over 90% of Americans believe in an invisible sky pal that takes an active part in their lives, and can be petitioned to intervene in activities of their lives via secret mental communication.

    That comment’s approval currently has 11 thumbs-up and 3 thumbs-down.

    About 80% of voting OTB readers approve of militant, contemptuous, hateful atheism and holding people of faith in complete disdain.

    “People of faith” including 1.1 billion or so Muslims.

    “People of faith” like “devout Catholics” Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.

    “People of faith” like Barack Obama, who certainly is no atheist and definitely not a Muslim. (Just ask him.)

    Nice little snapshot of the readership here…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  28. @Jenos Idanian:

    It is kind of interesting. What is this, Daily Show?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  29. Galanti says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Hateful? No….just frustration perhaps that these irrational and illogical “beliefs” have such enormous influence over things like policy, education, health and so on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  30. mannning says:

    @Galanti:

    Why, it’s atheists versus Christians here, isn’t it? You guys are swimming upstream all the way, are you not? Rightly so, in my opinion. Perhaps that is why you take every opportunity to denigrate those of the faith, yet you have not seen many direct attacks here on your “non-faith faith”, and “non-religious religion” in return, now have you?

    I’d say your religious toleration factor is about zero, and it colors your every thought. If you ever reached a significant power position, we would need every bit of God’s help we could get to avoid the modern-day equivalent of the lion’s den. Inhumanity rampant!

    Perhaps that also explains the sharply sour grapes attitudes, and dismissal out of hand of contrary opinions that are so often displayed here; your God is your intellect, and it is, to you, far superior to our sky God, right? Sort of a self-worship, self-centered, and arrogant faith, that must try to be relevant somehow, surrounded as you are by a dominantly Christian society that tends to reject your non-faith at every turn. You must be totally frustrated overall, even if you have eked out a decent living somehow. I suppose you also root for the ACLU’s next attack on religion.

    Pitiful! Always in attack mode!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. mannning says:

    @An Interested Party:

    So you can’t pull it off? No power over life and death? How unexpected!

    So, I will just have to vote for the Republican candidate, whoever he turns out to be.

    Then, I will sit back and count the votes for Obama to get a line on who to put in the idiot box.
    Shall I put you in that box now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Galanti: Hateful? No….just frustration perhaps that these irrational and illogical “beliefs” have such enormous influence over things like policy, education, health and so on.

    “This is what democracy looks like!”

    So much for that famed tolerance of the left. Unlike liberals, I’m not demanding that you actively support things you don’t believe in, just wondering you you can’t show a modicum of respect and civility towards those who believe differently from you. Is that such a demanding thing?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. @Galanti:

    When anyone, staring from any perspective, starts to wear their intolerance on their sleeve, it puts a damper on fruitful discussion.

    Obviously that is true of militant atheists as well as insular evangelicals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. An Interested Party says:

    Perhaps that also explains the sharply sour grapes attitudes, and dismissal out of hand of contrary opinions that are so often displayed here…

    Pitiful! Always in attack mode!

    You are describing yourself with these comments…

    Shall I put you in that box now?

    No, but if you are voting for the Republican candidate, you should definitely put yourself in that box…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. mannning says:

    @john personna:

    That was an even-handed remark. Putting aside contentious religious arguments in favor of more objective, one step removed discussion is certainly worthwhile…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. mannning says:

    @An Interested Party:

    My box is for Democratic voters,not Republican, so your suggestion is unavailable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. mannning says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Actually, you wre the model for my remarks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. An Interested Party says:

    Actually, you wre the model for my remarks.

    Ahh, so you’re simply projecting…thank you for the clarification…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. mannning says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Projecting? More like observing and recording…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0