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Obama Hits Majority Disapproval

obama-frown

A majority of Americans now disapprove of President Obama’s performance and a whopping 70 percent think the country is moving in the wrong direction.

First Read (“NBC/WSJ poll: Obama approval sinks to new low“):

President Barack Obama’s approval rating has declined to an all-time low as public frustration with Washington and pessimism about the nation’s direction continue to grow, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Just 42 percent approve of the president’s job performance, which is down five points from earlier this month. By comparison, 51 percent disapprove of his job in office — tied for his all-time high.

The NBC/WSJ pollsters argue that no single reason explains Obama’s lower poll standing. Rather, they attribute it to the accumulation of setbacks since the summer — allegations of spying by the National Security Agency, the debate over Syria’s chemical weapons, the government shutdown and now intense scrutiny over the problems associated with the health care law’s federal website and its overall implementation.

[...]

And for the first time in the survey, even Obama’s personal ratings are upside-down, with 41 percent viewing him a favorable light and 45 percent viewing him negatively.

“Personally and politically, the public’s assessment is two thumbs down,” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

But that two-thumbs-down assessment also applies to almost every other politician measured in the poll. Consider:

  • The public’s view of the Republican Party has reached another all-time low in the survey, with 22 percent seeing the GOP in a positive light and 53 percent viewing it negatively;
  • House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remain unpopular;
  • Sixty-three percent of voters want to replace their own member of Congress, which is the highest percentage ever recorded on this question that dates back to 1992;
  • Seventy-four percent believe Congress is contributing to problems in Washington rather than solving them;
  • Only 22 percent think the nation is headed in the right direction;
  • And half of respondents (50 percent) think it’s likely that there will be another government shutdown.

GOP pollster McInturff says that if the previous NBC/WSJ poll — conducted during the shutdown – sent shock waves hitting the Republican Party, this new poll is sending shock waves hitting everyone else.

Indeed, looking at the full poll results (PDF) there’s no good news for anyone.

  • 70% see the country “Off on the wrong track,” compared to 22% who see it “Headed in the right direction.” That’s actually an improvement from three weeks ago, during the shutdown, when it was 79/14.
  • Obama’s approval has never been lower and his disapproval has never been higher, although he’s come close on both a couple of times.
  • 30% have a “Very Negative” view of the Republican Party. That’s both the highest that number has been since Obama took office but also the modal response. Only 6% have a “Very Positive” view.
  • The Tea Party comes in at 37% ”Very Negative” and 9% ”Very Positive,” suggesting that they’re indistinguishable from the GOP in the minds of the public.
  • The Democrats fare better but only barely: 22% have a “Very Negative” view and only 15% a “Very Positive” view.
  • John Boehner and Harry Reid have almost identical poll numbers:  3% and 5% have a “Very Positive” view, respectively, vs. 25% and 23%, respectively, with a “Very Negative” view.
  • Interestingly, Ted Cruz fares slightly better, with 9% having a  ”Very Positive” view and 22% ”Very Negative,” despite being the poster boy for the shutdown. Especially good news for him: his “Don’t Know Name/Not Sure” rating has plummeted to 35%, compared to 65% as recently as June 2.
  • More interestingly, perhaps, is that Hillary Clinton’s “Very Positive” has dropped to 22%, down from 34% as recently as January, while her “Very Negative” number has gone up to 21% from 15%. Presumably, some of that is “Benghazi!”
  • Amusingly, Federal government employees continue to draw a Meh, with the 33% Neutral being the modal rating and all other categories ranging from 11 to 21: 15% Very Positive, 21% Somewhat Positive, 15% Somewhat Negative, and 11% Very Negative.

The bottom line seems to be that the American people are just fed up. And, while they rightly blame Congressional Republicans more than anyone else for the shutdown, they’re angry at Obama and the Democratic leadership for not doing a better job of solving the problem.  Peter Hart sums it up:

“It feels like we’re in a Howard Beale moment,” adds Hart, referring to an often-quoted line from the 1976 movie “Network.”

“We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore,” Hart paraphrases from that movie.

Alas, there’s a pretty fair chance we’ll be taking a lot more of “it” between now and next November.

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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. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And, while they rightly blame Congressional Republicans more than anyone else for the shutdown, they’re angry at Obama and the Democratic leadership for not doing a better job of solving the problem.

    “HEY! Your opponent is a complete nut job! Make him sane!” Just exactly how did they expect him to do that? Declare marshall law, dissolve Congress, suspend Habeas Corpus etc etc etc?? Instead of thinking about solving the problem (which they can, it’s called voting for sane people) they just want to whine about it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 4

  2. James Pearce says:

    Alas, there’s a pretty fair chance we’ll be taking a lot more of “it” between now and next November.

    Oh, it’s guaranteed.

    Also guaranteed….most incumbents will survive their next election.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  3. Tom Phillips says:

    As US politics seems to get dirtier and more divisive it seems to be pulling down the rating of politicians of all parties. We will soon be voting for our least worst choice. The Republicans and Democrats seem to be dragging each other into the gutter. The next thing we will see will be them arguing over who started the gutter politics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tom Phillips:

    We will soon be voting for our least worst choice.

    I have been for years. Lot of good it did me.

    @James Pearce:

    Also guaranteed….most incumbents will survive their next election.

    The sad truth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. Tyrell says:

    We have incompetence totally in Congress. The White House is in free fall. Scandals too numerous to count. “I didn’t know” “You can keep your health plan” “You can keep your doctor”
    The American people have totally lost confidence in the government’s ability to solve anything.
    There’s a message there.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 21

  6. bill says:

    @Tyrell: true, but most of them would be reelected tomorrow. somehow the “none of us is as dumb as all of us” schtick doesn’t translate to the actual voters.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. edmondo says:

    Obama’s approval has never been lower and his disapproval has never been higher

    Gee, that bodes well for the Democratic Party next year, doesn’t it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  8. Fog says:

    **YAWN** Obama is unpopular compared to whom?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  9. gVOR08 says:

    The poll question ‘Do you approve or disapprove of Obamacare?’ needed clarification. IIRC about 15% of the public don’t like it because it’s not liberal enough. Enough to make a majority who approve or want it better. ‘Is the country moving in the wrong direction?’ also requires clarification. I suspect a lot of people feel as I do – damn right it’s moving in the wrong direction, has been since we elected Reagan in 1980 and started regularly electing Republicans. Obama is a welcome respite from our steady descent toward corporatist oligarchy.
    ____
    Hacker and Pierson in Winner-Take-All Politics date it from the mid-seventies when corporate money started to be important.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  10. James Pearce says:

    @Tyrell:

    There’s a message there.

    Sadly, it’s not “Vote for the Republican.”

    The message should be “Don’t believe these polls.” I’m sure their methodology is sound and all that. But I’m also sure the responses are completely, transparently bogus.

    They’re contradicted by election results.

    My right wing uncle went off a “throw the bums out” rant the other day. I asked him if he was planning on voting for a Democrat to oust Mike Coffman (R-CO) at the next opportunity. His response:

    “Absolutely not.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    More important than the single lowest point is that the president’s approval numbers have been going in the wrong way since the end of last year. That’s the longest such period since the post-honeymoon decline at the beginning of his presidency.

    Among post-war presidents his approval rating is only better than Johnson’s, Nixon’s and Geoge W. Bush’s at this point in his presidency. That’s not an enviable company. It’s .6% better than George W. Bush’s and .5% worse than Harry Truman’s. He’s not in impeachment territory but he’s not in “advancing his agenda” territory, either.

    The parties of presidents with that low an approval rating in the 19th quarter of their presidencies do not tend to do well in the midterm elections of the next year. In every single case in the post-war period (including Truman) with the president’s approval that low the president’s party has lost seats both in the House and the Senate.

    House districts are now more, shall we say, sorted than they were in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s so I wouldn’t expect big turnovers there. The much larger question is what is the president’s approval rating in states that have Senate elections in 2014? That’s where the real potential for trouble for the Democrats will be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. Woody says:

    It’s Halloween 2013. The election races haven’t ramped up yet. Wait until the campaigns kick in, the ads start blaring, and the tv talking heads start navel-gazing and showcasing their “gut takes”.

    All of those “kick the bums out” paper tigers will trot back to their tribes and vote accordingly. They will then go back to America’s primary political activity: bitterly complaining whilst declining to do f-all about it.

    The over/under percentage of House incumbents returning: 92%.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce: You mean he meant to go on a “throw the other bums out” rant?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Tyrell says:

    @bill: We want Nader!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  15. James Pearce says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    You mean he meant to go on a “throw the other bums out” rant?

    Oh, I’m sure he did. Only problem with that, of course, is that Mike Coffman is the only guy holding Mike Coffman’s seat. There is no “other bum” to throw out.

    If indeed he meant, “throw out all the other bums” then he’s just behaving as a typical partisan voter, not some anti-incumbent radical who wants a fresh start.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  16. James Pearce says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Among post-war presidents his approval rating is only better than Johnson’s, Nixon’s and Geoge W. Bush’s at this point in his presidency.

    And yet, as low as it is now, it’s still the highest approval rating for an African-American president ever.

    Which is a facetious way of saying there are limits to “Let history be your guide.”

    (FWIW, I do not think the mid-terms will be good for Democrats, but it really does depend on how the Republicans play it. If they seem serious about governance, their victory is all but assured. If they give the Tea Party the reigns, it’s gonna be close.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  17. JKB says:

    Mr. Obama, tear down this wall of lies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 13

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    Mr. Obama, tear down this wall of lies.

    He’s trying, he’s trying, but as soon as knocks out one brick the Republicans add three more.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  19. wr says:

    @Dave Schuler: “It’s .6% better than George W. Bush’s and .5% worse than Harry Truman’s. He’s not in impeachment territory but he’s not in “advancing his agenda” territory, either.”

    I’m assuming that you are aware that according to the Constitution (and to everyone in the country except the House Republicans), low poll numbers are not actually grounds for impeachment…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  20. Just Me says:

    I think Obama is starting to lose the media and I think he catching blame for the Obamacare roll out.

    There is still a lot of time until next November but outside of some wag the dog moment I don’t see his numbers improving much but I also am not sure voters will vote for the GOP.

    I don’t see much change in the house and the GOP-senate is where thing could change-luckily for the democrats the GOP hasn’t recruited too many viable candidates in recent years and the GOP struggles with state wide elections outside the reddest states.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  21. john personna says:

    Just 42 percent approve of the president’s job performance, which is down five points from earlier this month. By comparison, 51 percent disapprove of his job in office — tied for his all-time high.

    Those are pretty good numbers for a second term, especially for a president who wants to ride out, rather than sponsor, signature legislation.

    The DC playing field is what it is. Everything is on hold until 2014, if not 2016. So, meh.

    Hell, maybe I’ll give Obama a “disapprove” this week, just so I can turn around next month and “approve” again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  22. john personna says:

    @Just Me:

    We should have a separate thread “how Obamacare effected me.” Then we’d at least see how our hardy little group is faring.

    FWIW, Kaiser informs me that my plan is fine for grandfathering, and I can keep it as long as I want. That’s interesting because it’s a pretty cheap plan. A 30/5000 plan. It prices out between current bronze and silver options.

    But, not like it matters for “Dems” because Obama is out, and Dems can run on fixing problems. A Dem presidential candidate can even say “I would have done a much better job than this.”

    Indeed, Romeny might have won on *fixing* Obamacare, but he was blocked from that path.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  23. al-Ameda says:

    Get ready one and all, for the upcoming budget battle, and the 2nd round of “repeal Obamacare or nobody gets out here alive.”

    Coming soon to a cesspool near you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  24. mattbernius says:

    @john personna:

    But, not like it matters for “Dems” because Obama is out, and Dems can run on fixing problems. A Dem presidential candidate can even say “I would have done a much better job than this.”

    Fair, but as we saw with McCain, and Gore before him, it’s very difficult for someone from within the party (not to mention the Government) to run on a “I would have done a much better job than this” platorm.

    In part that’s because you have to somehow point out where you philosophically differ from the incumbent in a meaningful way that brings both your base and the independents along with you.

    H. Clinton might have a better chance having left the Administration, but its still one heck of a balancing act. And it’s one that may require throwing Obama under the bus, which, again, risks the base.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. john personna says:

    @mattbernius:

    The closer the candidate was to DC, the harder it is to be an outsider. Yes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Jack says:

    Imagine what his polling numbers would be if he wasn’t being propped up by the mainstreem media.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 13

  27. gVOR08 says:

    @john personna:

    The DC playing field is what it is. Everything is on hold until 2014, if not 2016. So, meh.

    Agreed. I don’t think Obama much cares about his poll numbers right now, except for how it affects immediate goals. He knows the electorate have short memories.

    Every president seems to resolve to not repeat the mistakes of his immediate predecessor. W Bush ran a permanent campaign. It interfered with governance. If one paid attention, and wasn’t blinded by ideology, O pretty much did three years of pragmatic governance followed by a year of intense campaigning. I expect more of the same. He’ll campaign for specific goals, as he is now for Obamacare. He may campaign hard next year if he sees hope for the midterms. The interesting bit is the last year. Will he campaign hard for Hilary, or whoever is the nominee? I suspect he’s made some commitments to the Clintons. It’ll be interesting to see.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  28. David M says:

    I think disapproval is mainly linked to Obamacare, specifically the fear of the unknown, the GOP fearmongering and the healthcare.gov bugs. Fixing the federal exchange is critical.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  29. Dave Schuler says:

    @wr:

    Of course not. But the less popular the president the less uproar there would be over it. Nixon’s popularity was well over 50% for nearly all of his presidency. If it hadn’t sunk during the Watergate matter, impeaching him would have been politically very difficult. That’s the point. Impeachment isn’t primarily a legal act. It’s primarily a political act.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  30. john personna says:

    @David M:

    One the one hand, you are right, and fixing the exchanges is critical.

    At the same time, there is some confusion about what the exchanges are, and what “being in Obamacare” means. People. talk about using the exchanges to get into Obamacare, but what they really do is a one-time-only (or infrequent) choice at the exchange, which puts them “in” a particular insurance plan.

    As I’ve mentioned, I’m in a Kaiser plan. People signing up, through the exchange, for something similar are also going to come out “in” Kaiser, not “in Obamacare” in any meaningful sense.

    This will sink in with a little time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. john personna says:

    (The crazy-Republican line that Obamacare “is a complete takeover” contributes to this phony idea that you are going to seek treatment from “Obamacare” rather than Kaiser, or Blue Cross, or whoever.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  32. David M says:

    @john personna:

    Our exchanges (CA & WA) are working fine, but I would be surprised if the federal exchange problems aren’t confusing people living in states with working exchanges. There could be a significant number of people that are waiting to hear that Obamacare or healthcare.gov were fixed and working before going through their state exchange.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. john personna says:

    @David M:

    I actually hit 404s on the California site, trying to help a friend out. Perhaps she was atypical, a high earner with 3 dependents, but it never came back with priced plans for her. (I tried twice for her, most recently last Saturday morning, a few hours before their scheduled downtime.)

    Related though:

    Gruber summarized his stats: ninety-seven per cent of Americans are either left alone or are clear winners, while three per cent are arguably losers. “We have to as a society be able to accept that,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, that’s a shame, but no law in the history of America makes everyone better off.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. David M says:

    @john personna:

    “Working fine” probably should just have been working better than the federal exchange, as the WA exchange has been having periodic downtime for fixes as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  35. wr says:

    @Dave Schuler: “But the less popular the president the less uproar there would be over it”

    I suppose that’s true up to a point. But if the Republicans decided to impeach the second Democratic president in a row based on nothing, I suspect there would be more than a little “uproar.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  36. george says:

    @Jack:

    Imagine what his polling numbers would be if he wasn’t being propped up by the mainstreem media.

    It must be awful to live in a place where there’s only one media source. I feel for you, and wish you too could enjoy cable TV and the Internet, where a huge range of media sources exist, with opinions on Obama that are all over the map.

    Luckily for most Americans, the country has hundreds of sources of opinions on Obama and everything else, most of which disagreeing wildly with each other. Perhaps one day the country you live in will also have the Internet, cable TV, talk radio, many different newspapers and magazines. Until then, my condolances.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  37. anjin-san says:

    Imagine what his polling numbers would be if he wasn’t being propped up by the mainstreem media.

    Imagine how much better informed you might be if you ventured outside the right wing noise/rage machine…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. anjin-san says:

    @Dave Schuler

    He’s not in impeachment territory

    We impeach Presidents for low polling numbers? I must have missed civics class the day that was discussed…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. FeartheSame says:

    @James Pearce: You seem to overlooked the fact that t”he bums” could well be Senators Benet and Udall. Your uncle probably feels you are a dimwit with an overly inflated view of his intelligence, and with good reason.

    As to your earlier point. One can imagine your reaction to someone responding to a 2005 poll on Geroge W. Bush by citing 2004 election results or those cited 2010 election results when contronted with unfavorable 2012 polls. The idea that the last election is the new status quo is the one of the most eternal fallacies in modern political analysis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1