Obama’s Job Approval, And Favorability, Slip On Economic Woes
In an unusual late Friday release, the new CBS News/New York Times poll has some pretty brutal numbers for President Obama:
President Obama’s support is eroding among elements of his base, and a yearlong effort to recapture the political center has failed to attract independent voters, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, leaving him vulnerable at a moment when pessimism over the country’s direction is greater than at any other time since he took office.
The president’s effort to seize the initiative on the economy was well received by the public, and clear majorities support crucial pieces of his new job-creation program. But despite Mr. Obama’s campaign to sell the plan to Congress and voters, more than half of those questioned said they feared the economy was already in or was headed for a double-dip recession, and nearly three-quarters of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.
The poll, which was conducted after Mr. Obama’s economic address to Congress last week, contains considerable warning signs for the president. The poll found a 12-point jump since late June, to 43 percent, in the number of Americans who say the economy is getting worse. And for the first time since taking office, his disapproval rating has reached 50 percent in the Times and CBS News polls.
“I don’t disapprove of Barack Obama as a person, but as a president he has disappointed me greatly,” said Ann Sheets, 69, a Democrat from Chattanooga, Tenn., speaking in a follow-up interview. Ms. Sheets added, “I’m realistic enough to know how difficult it is and I am not against compromise, but I voted for a backbone. You have to draw some lines in the sand, and I don’t think he has done that.”
The poll found a 43 percent approval rating for Mr. Obama. It is significantly higher than Jimmy Carter, who had an approval rating of 31 percent at a similar time in his presidency, according to the Times and CBS News poll, which showed Ronald Reagan with an approval of 46 percent and the elder George Bush at 70 percent.
The president’s support has fallen to its lowest levels across parts of the diverse coalition of voters who elected him, from women to suburbanites to college graduates. And a persistent effort over the past year to reclaim his appeal to independent voters has shown few signs of bearing fruit, with 59 percent of this critical electoral group voicing their disapproval.
While Mr. Obama has not yet succeeded in winning over independent voters, who comprise the most influential piece of the electorate, neither have Republicans. The field is largely unknown to independents, and few have a favorable opinion of any of the candidates.
It’s worth taking a look at the sample that CBS and The Times are using here. 29% of the respondents identified themselves as Republican, 33% as Democrats, 32% as Independents, and 8% didn’t respond. 25% of the respondents described themselves as very or somewhat liberal, 33% as very or somewhat conservative, and 38% as moderate. 35% say they voted for Barack Obama in 2008, 29% said John McCain, and 28% said they didn’t vote. It’s worth noting, then, that this is a poll of “Adults,” not a poll of either Registered or Likely Voters. Most pollsters would say that this is a good group to be polling this far away from Election Day, but draw your own conclusions.
As for the President’s jobs plan, the numbers are divided though positive for at least some of the proposals, but respondents don’t think that Congress and the President will be able to come together to make a deal that can get through both branches:
As for Mr. Obama’s latest proposal to lower unemployment, the American Jobs Act he presented to Congress last week, the public is split. While 64 percent say they have heard about the bill, Americans are divided as to whether the plan will actually create jobs. Nearly half of Americans are at least somewhat confident that Mr. Obama’s proposals will create jobs and stimulate the economy –12 percent are very confident and 36 percent are somewhat confident. But about the same amount — 47% — are not confident his plan will do that.
However, most Americans support some of the specific individual elements included in the president’s plan. Among the policies measured in this poll, support is highest for cutting taxes for small businesses and spending money on the nation’s infrastructure, such as bridges, airports and schools. Fifty-six percent like the idea of a payroll tax cut, and 52 percent think providing money to state governments so they can avoid layoffs of public employees is a good idea.
However, Americans express considerable doubt that the two sides in Congress can come together and agree on a job creation package. Just 31 percent have at least some confidence that this will happen (only 3 percent are very confident), while 45 percent are not very confident and 22 percent are not at all confident.
On the other big issue in Washington this fall — how to lower deficit — most Americans would like to see both tax increases and spending cuts to lower the deficit, and most (56 percent) also support increasing taxes on households with incomes of $250,000 or more.
The other good news for the President, I suppose is the fact that his job approval numbers are better than those for Congress as a whole (12%) or for Congressional Democrats (28%) or Congressional Republicans (19%). Perhaps the most surprising number for the President, though, is his Favorable/Unfavorable number, which is starting to resemble his job approval number. In the latest poll it’s 39% favorable, 42% unfavorable, 13% undecided, and 5% saying (somewhat bizarrely) that they haven’t heard enough about the President to form an opinion. Up until fairly recently, the President had benefited from the fact that his personal favorability ratings were typically much better than his job approval numbers, which suggested that turning around public opinion could be aided by the fact that people generally like him. That trend has started to change though: (chart has not been updated to include CBS/NYT numbers yet)
As Times report notes, this is the first time, in their poll at least, that the more Americans viewed the President unfavorably than viewed him favorably, a possible sign that the public was close to giving up on the Obama Presidency. Other bad news in this regard is the fact that 87% believe that the economy will either stay the same or get worse, 48% believe we’re headed for another recession, 88% say the economy is either “fairly bad” or “very bad,” and 68% say that the President has not made real progress in fixing the economic condition of the country since taking office.
Now, obviously, many of these numbers would turn around if the economy started improving. While that’s certainly possible, there seems to be little chance of that happening to any significant degree between now and the 2012 elections, even if the President’s jobs bill were to be passed in full on Monday afternoon (which is obviously not going to happen). The President’s own Office of Management and Budget said last month that it expected slow economic growth, and unemployment rates averaging 9% all the way through the end of 2012. No President other than Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 and 1940 has been re-elected when unemployment was at that height, and the political conditions of 2012 are not going to be anything like either of those elections I would submit.
Much depends on who the GOP nominates and how the General Election plays itself out a year from now, but there’s no reason at all for the White House to be confident right now.