56 Percent Say Obama Changed Country for Worse

An overwhelming number of likely voters say President Obama has changed America; most say for the worse. He still leads Romney by 3 points.

An overwhelming number of likely voters say President Obama has changed America–a majority say for the worse.

The Hill (“Hill Poll: Majority believe Obama has changed country for worse“):

Two-thirds of likely voters say President Obama has kept his 2008 campaign promise to change America — but it’s changed for the worse, according to a sizable majority.

A new poll for The Hill found 56 percent of likely voters believe Obama’s first term has transformed the nation in a negative way, compared to 35 percent who believe the country has changed for the better under his leadership.

[…]

It found 68 percent of likely voters — regardless of whether they approve or disapprove of Obama — believe the president has substantially transformed the country since his 2009 inauguration.

The feeling that Obama has changed the country for the worse is strongest among Republicans, at 91 percent, compared to 71 percent of Democrats who support Obama’s brand of change.

Strikingly, 1-in-5 Democrats say they feel Obama has changed the United States for the worse.

While the top-line result is indeed interesting, it’s not clear that it means much. As with the economic reports that keep trickling out, this is all presumably baked into people’s overall view of Obama and whether to retain him in office.

Indeed, my initial headline and lede would have been something along the lines of “68 percent think Obama is ruining the country but a majority nonetheless want to re-elect him.” Oddly, though,  the crosstabs [PDF] seem to indicate that they didn’t bother asking that rather obvious question.

I say “oddly” because Obama has a slight lead over Romney in every poll in the RealClearPolitics index except Rasmussen’s, which most of us discount because it consistently skews Republican.  As of this morning, RCP has it 47.0 to 44.4 for Obama, with a whopping 221 to 181 lead in the Electoral College–and a 332 to 206 blowout if you throw out toss-ups and just give the state to the candidate currently leaning in the poll of polls.

That’s really striking. People overwhelmingly think Obama is doing a bad job and yet they still prefer him to the presumptive Republican nominee.  Part of that presumably comes from this:

Compared to the sentiment about Obama’s impact, fewer people see presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney as a candidate who will change the country dramatically if elected.

Still, 50 percent of people think Romney will bring a “significant” level of change — a finding that may reflect the desire among anti-Obama voters for a reversal of the president’s policies.

So, while they think Obama is screwing up the country, they have little confidence Romney will do any better.

Still, even that’s odd. Typically, if the incumbent is doing a bad job, the sentiment is “throw the bum out.” In this case, though, it seems to be “Maybe a bad job is the best we can hope for” coupled with “and he’s really a swell guy.”

CORRECTION: The original headline and lede were wrong and have been corrected. I got thrown off track by the “two-thirds” line in The Hill’s lede and didn’t read the numbers themselves closely.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Your title is in error:

    A new poll for The Hill found 56 percent of likely voters believe Obama’s first term has transformed the nation in a negative way, compared to 35 percent who believe the country has changed for the better under his leadership.

    You cannot pull up the 68% number and substitute it for the 56% number.

    Not that 56% is great.

  2. Jay L. Gischer says:

    I think your headline misstates the poll results – which say that 56 percent think that Obama has changed the country for the worse. The 68 percent is the number who think that Obama has changed the country, full stop.

  3. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    I say “oddly” because Obama has a slight lead over Romney in every poll in the RealClearPolitics index except Rasmussen’s, which most of us discount because it consistently skews Republican.

    Pulse Opinion Research…

    We will tackle the results in another article, but for now political junkies may be wondering, what is Pulse Opinion Research?

    The answer (as reported earlier today by Political Wire) is that Pulse is a “field service” spun off of of Rasmussen Reports that conducts their well known automated, recorded-voice surveys. It also conducts polls for other clients including, as of today, Fox News. While the questions asked on specific surveys may differ, the underlying methodology used by Fox/Pulse and Rasmussen are essentially identical.

    Pulse Opinion Research does all the field work and processing for Rasmussen Reports polling. They do the same for other clients using the system that I developed over many years. So, in practical terms, polling done by Pulse for any client, including Fox News, will be processed in exactly the same manner. In a Rasmussen Reports poll, Rasmussen Reports provides the questions to Pulse. In a Fox News poll, Fox News provides the questions for their own surveys.

    Fruit of the poisonous tree…

  4. Chad S says:

    If Romney can’t get ahead in the major state polls soon with all the headwind Obama’s facing, he’s fried chicken.

  5. hoob says:

    Please change the headline before someone picks this up, doesn’t read the actual article, and really believes a poll said over 2/3 of likely voters think obama changed the country for the worse.

  6. george says:

    Basically, if I think person A is doing a bad job, it doesn’t automatically mean I’m going to think person B is going to do a better job.

    For most people, voting involves choosing the lesser of two evils. At this point, there’s probably a fair number of people who don’t like what Obama is doing, but who still think Romney will do a worse job. Its not an irrational position.

    Most folks I talk to about this wonder that, in a country of 300 million, many of which are very gifted and good people, it comes down to a choice between Obama and Romney … and then hold their nose and pick one or the other. So it goes.

  7. deathcar2000 says:

    My favorite poll was about country unity. 50% thought the country was too politicaly divided the other 50% thought it wasnt. Seems only half of the respondents were correct and the other half not wrong.

  8. hoob says:

    @george:

    Most folks I talk to about this wonder that, in a country of 300 million, many of which are very gifted and good people, it comes down to a choice between Obama and Romney … and then hold their nose and pick one or the other. So it goes.

    And it will almost always be that way unless we get out of the 2 party system and maybe even insitute something like run off elections. The current system is rigged for the richest and most well connected to get elected. It’s not really good for the country or its people… but neither is the way congress works right now. Overall we need massive reform, but it won’t happen because, short of a revolution, the only people that can change it are the ones who are the problem themselves.

  9. anjin-san says:

    So is the headline deliberately misleading, or just a mistake?

  10. al-Ameda says:

    Well, I think the House Republican delegation has changed America for the worse.

    The 2008 crash of the financial and housing markets profoundly changed America. People who expected that we’d be back on track with full employment by now are delusional.

  11. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: @hoob: @anjin-san: Just a mistake–misled by the lede in the original report. I wrote the post before heading out for a TV appearance, so didn’t catch the comments for over an hour.

    @PJ: Now…that’s interesting.

  12. Scott says:

    @PJ: Has Rasmussen essentially turned itself into a form of push polling: Asking questions that then drive an agenda?

  13. nightrider says:

    Most folks I talk to about this wonder that, in a country of 300 million, many of which are very gifted and good people, it comes down to a choice between Obama and Romney … and then hold their nose and pick one or the other. So it goes.

    In the last two elections I think both parties have actually picked highly competent people capable of being good Presidents. But then they act like irresponsible idiots to pander to the large segment of those 300 million folks who don’t understand that we are the root problem and not the innocent victim of our politics. If Americans actually demanded responsible government and were prepared to back the realistic costs of responsibility, rather than default to siding with their team at every turn, we might actually at least sometimes get it.

  14. PJ says:

    @Scott:

    Has Rasmussen essentially turned itself into a form of push polling: Asking questions that then drive an agenda?

    Considering the fact that Rasmussen applies its likely voter screens to polling done almost two years before the election the voter screen is predicting, something others pollster don’t do, yes.

  15. Tsar Nicholas says:

    So, in other words:

    – 44% are clueless, are masochistic, are sadistic, or they’re clinically brain dead.
    – Some combination of the above.
    – Misery sure loves company.

  16. Wayne says:

    Most people don’t know much about Romney yet besides us political junkies. So are they are unlikely to commit to him yet.

    As I told a coworker, polls at this stage are pretty worthless as in the actual number. Trends and some underlying numbers is what you need to look at. It won’t be until at least the end of August before they start to be relevant in the actual number with the numbers after the first Presidential debate being anything solid. First debate I believe is first of October.

    What I have seen in polls is that people are not happy with Obama. If Romney can come across as a half-reasonable alternative, he should win easily. If he comes off as Obama light then he will be in for a rough ride.

  17. anjin-san says:

    @ Tsar

    Gee, you left out “zombieland.”

    You like to think of yourself as a clever guy – you should actually try to come up with some clever material…

  18. rodney dill says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: If you look in the PDF, only 35% think Obama has changed America for the better.

  19. Septimius says:

    56% of likely voters think Obama has changed the country for the worse, yet he holds a three-point lead in the polls?

    Must be racism.

  20. george says:

    @nightrider:

    In the last two elections I think both parties have actually picked highly competent people capable of being good Presidents. But then they act like irresponsible idiots to pander to the large segment of those 300 million folks who don’t understand that we are the root problem and not the innocent victim of our politics. If Americans actually demanded responsible government and were prepared to back the realistic costs of responsibility, rather than default to siding with their team at every turn, we might actually at least sometimes get it.

    That’s a fair point – it could almost everyone we elect turns out bad simply because the team for which they’re playing is their party, rather than the country.

  21. PJ says:

    @Septimius:

    56% of likely voters think Obama has changed the country for the worse, yet he holds a three-point lead in the polls?

    Must be racism.

    Nah.

    It’s Rasmussen polling.

  22. bk says:

    @Chad S:

    If Romney can’t get ahead in the major state polls soon with all the headwind Obama’s facing, he’s fried chicken.

    Fried chicken? Because “watermelon” would have been too much of a giveaway?

  23. anjin-san says:

    It’s Rasmussen polling.

    It’s all clear now. I was not familiar with “Pulse Opinion Research”, but it all makes sense when you know about their connection with Rasmussen.

    That’s really striking. People overwhelmingly think Obama is doing a bad job

    First we had the misleading headline, now we have the results of this poll being presented as fact when James knows damn well what Rasmussen is about.

  24. Lib Cap says:

    Tribal Response.

    Just like: “Hey! My suburban-located millionaire-owned seasonal sporting team affiliated with my local geographic area will kick the livin’ shit out of your suburban-located millionaire-owned seasonal sporting team affiliated with YOUR local geographic area!”

    Ha!

    Go (insert comic caricature [trademarked by seasonal sporting team here and sold at regional shopping outlets] here)’s !!!

    Yah… You betcha!

    But we can’t make you love Romney.

    Or even like him.

  25. hoob says:

    @nightrider:

    In the last two elections I think both parties have actually picked highly competent people capable of being good Presidents. But then they act like irresponsible idiots to pander to the large segment of those 300 million folks who don’t understand that we are the root problem and not the innocent victim of our politics. If Americans actually demanded responsible government and were prepared to back the realistic costs of responsibility, rather than default to siding with their team at every turn, we might actually at least sometimes get it.

    I don’t agree. You consider McCain/Palin highly competent? I don’t agree.

    You have to be rich or famous to be considered. That means you either have been in politics/movies/tv et al or have a family name (famous) or you made a boatload of money in business or whatever. The only people that have a likelihood of being kinda normal are those that have been in politics for awhile and that’s how they made their name. But most of them are beholden to special interests by the time they would decide to run for president.

    So that’s our pool of candidates with the current system. That’s a pretty poor and limited pool. There are very intelligent naturally born americans that don’t get in that group of `elecatable` people.

    With a run off election people could actually vote for who they wanted to. They wouldn’t be worried that if they voted for Nader then maybe Obama or Kerry or whoever would lose to Bush or McCain or whoever. You wouldn’t tie people down with the fear of the other candidate getting elected. More people would vote the person they really believed in (although with all those FOX viewers, that might be dangerous).

  26. Michael says:

    The idea that you can have a majority think that Obama has changed the country for the worse AND a majority that would want to re-elect him isn’t that dissonant. A Tea Partier and an Occupy activist would both likely perceive Obama as changing it for the worse, but for wildly different reasons. And once you break that down, an Occupy activist is much more likely to actually vote for Obama because the alternative is so much more anathema to their goal.

  27. Scott F. says:

    That’s really striking. People overwhelmingly think Obama is doing a bad job and yet they still prefer him to the presumptive Republican nominee.

    “Has President Obama changed America for better or for worse?” is too open a question to glean much information about voting from. On the right, President Obama’s detractors feel he has changed America into a socialist hellhole, but on the left, POTUS’ detractors feel he hasn’t done enough to slow the country’s slide into oligarchy. Any part of that 56% that thinks Obama hasn’t been liberal enough is certainly not going to pick Romney.

  28. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    Indeed, my initial headline and lede would have been something along the lines of “68 percent think Obama is ruining the country but a majority nonetheless want to re-elect him.” Oddly, though, the crosstabs [PDF] seem to indicate that they didn’t bother asking that rather obvious question.

    I don’t think it’s odd. Asking that question would have shown how skewed this poll is compared to non-Rasmussen polls.
    If the poll also had shown Romney up by 1 to 4 points, would have written the same kind post, or would you have questioned the results?

    (BTW, the link to the RealClearPolitics index is linking to the crosstabs PDF.)

  29. Ben Wolf says:

    @Scott F.: True. There really isn’t enough breakdown of why people think the country has changed for the worse to draw meaningful conclusions about possible consequences for the election.

  30. gVOR08 says:

    I note Pulse Opinion did not ask a fairly obvious question. They ask whether Obama has changed the country, then follow up with whether the change was for better or for worse. They then ask if Romney would change the country, but no follow up on whether for better for worse. This would seem to allow an explanation that while many may not be happy with O, they think whatever change Romney wrought would be even worse.

    The question seems reasonably clearly worded, but I suspect there’s also an element of confusion between caused by Obama and while Obama.

  31. Tlaloc says:

    As so often when discussing Obama, it’s necessary to acknowledge that he’s governed as a center right politician. thus there’s not contradiction in that a not insignifican portion of the population may think he’s done a lot of stupid things but have no appetite to go “full retard” by backing the GOP candidate.

  32. Nikki says:

    @Wayne: And if he comes off as the stiff upper class ick that he is…you know…the REAL Romney, then Obama’s got it in the bag.

  33. An Interested Party says:

    Most people don’t know much about Romney yet besides us political junkies. So are they are unlikely to commit to him yet.

    Please…as more people get to know Mr. Outsourcing (who also has the personality of John Kerry), his unfavorables will probably go up…

    Gee, you left out “zombieland.”

    Yes, but does he realize the irony of that?

    There really isn’t enough breakdown of why people think the country has changed for the worse to draw meaningful conclusions about possible consequences for the election.

    This, of course, is the same reason why PPACA polls so poorly, as many of the people who are against it don’t think it went far enough…

  34. al-Ameda says:

    @Chad S:

    If Romney can’t get ahead in the major state polls soon with all the headwind Obama’s facing, he’s fried chicken.

    … or maybe equestrian quality horse meat.

  35. Wayne says:

    @ AIP
    Everyone knew you would make such a prediction. There is seldom anything unbiased in your analyses. I am not saying people will vote for Romney once they get to know him only that the poll should be taken with a bunch of salt. Unknown candidates usually poll lower before people get to know them and that is true for both parties. The incumbent numbers usually are more stable. I don’t subscribe to the” if the incumbent is polling under 50 especially this far out” that they will lose philosophy but if their polls are in the low 40’s, their chances become very slim. Regardless, as already stated the best indicators right now are the numbers within not head-to-head final tally.

    Just a reminder polls have been infamous for being inaccurate for many elections in the past. Reagan was losing to Carter as late as end of October but stomp him in the end.

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/behind-the-numbers/2008/10/reagans_comeback.html

    Romney is no Reagan but that is not the point. Even as recent as the last Wisconsin election, polls have shown their unreliability.

  36. An Interested Party says:

    There is seldom anything unbiased in your analyses.

    Oh yes because you are just so incredibly unbiased…

    Unknown candidates usually poll lower before people get to know them and that is true for both parties.

    Really? I wonder how that worked for John Kerry…

    Even as recent as the last Wisconsin election, polls have shown their unreliability.

    Well with Romney being behind at this point, the best you can do is click your heels together and hope for the best…

  37. KariQ says:

    @Wayne:

    Actually, the polls in Wisconsin were pretty good: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2012/governor/wi/wisconsin_governor_recall_election_walker_vs_barrett-3056.html

    The average got the point spread right, and was only 1.5% off for the vote percentages, which is an insignificant difference given that they all had a certain percentage of “undecideds” which appear to have broken evenly. Of course, this is the average of the polls taken in the few weeks before the election, which is really the only way we have of measuring the accuracy of a poll. It is noticeable that Rasmussen did not even attempt to poll this race after early May. That doesn’t speak well for their confidence in their polling.

    I know that conservatives are all hot and bothered over the idea that this will be another 1980, but you really ought to drop it. In 1980, Carter’s approval numbers were the 30s. Obama’s numbers are consistently in the upper 40s. The comparison to 1980 comes to a full stop right there.

    There are two elections that this one has similarities to: 1976 and 2004. Both had presidents with approval ratings in the upper 40s. In one, the sitting president lost (but probably would have won if it wasn’t for an inexplicable error about Poland in a debate) and in the other, the sitting president did win.

    All that tells us is that this is likely to be a very close election, and Obama as the sitting president has a slight advantage, but not an overwhelming one.

  38. Wayne says:

    @AIP
    I have my biases but not all my analyses are biased. I have often pointed out trends or facts that don’t support my desired outcome. You don’t.

    The key word is usually. You can always find a poll that goes against trends. For example, Democrats often poll higher while Republicans poll lower in many polls until the last couple polls are released before an election. That is clearly not always the case and there are quantifiers such as the Republican winning that increases the likelihood of the pollster doing so.

    Re “Well with Romney being behind at this point, the best you can do is click your heels together and hope for the best…”

    Reagan and Bush were behind Carter and Kerry at this time and they won handily. If the polls were reverse I doubt you will be saying the same about Obama supporters. On the other hand, I would be saying basically the same thing I usually do. Polls should be taken with a bucket of salt especially at this point.

  39. jan says:

    Obama and his embrace of keynesian policies has indeed had an adverse effect on this country, IMO. Recently there was an economic gathering in Spain, in which the guru of Keynesian theory was present — Paul Krugman. Ironically, he had a less than sparkling endorsement of his contributions to positively addressing the fiscal problems of the world.

    Finally…The ultimate Krugman take down.. It couldn’t have been more deserved!

    During a debate on Europe’s crisis, Pedro Schwartz (a mild-mannered Spanish ‘Austrian’ economics professor) took on the heavyweight Paul ‘I coulda been a Fed Chair contender’ Krugman, and – in our humble opinion – wiped the floor with his Keynesian philosophy. From the medicinal use of more debt to fix too much debt, to the Japanization of world economies and the demand-side bias of every- and any-thing – interested only in the short-term economic growth; the gentlemanly Spaniard notes, with regard to the European crisis, the fact that “Keynesians got us into this mess and now we have to sacrifice our principals so that they can get us out of this mess”. Humble and generous in his praise – though definitively serious with his criticism – Schwartz opines: “Often Nobel prize winners are tempted to pontificate on matters that are outside the specialty in which they have excelled,” noting “the mantle of authority whereby what ever they say – whether sensible or not – is accepted with resignation from some and enthusiasm by others.” Krugman’s red-faced anger is evident at the conclusion as he even refused to shake Schwartz’s hand after the debate.

  40. An Interested Party says:

    I have often pointed out trends or facts that don’t support my desired outcome.

    Such as?

    Reagan and Bush were behind Carter and Kerry at this time and they won handily.

    Romney is neither Reagan nor Bush and the President is neither Carter nor Kerry…

    Polls should be taken with a bucket of salt especially at this point.

    How shocking that you feel that way…

  41. Tlaloc says:

    it’s easy to win an argument when you exist in your own private reality, as the cultists of austrian economics most certainly do.

    You should actually watch the video, Krugman completely dismembers the spanish guy in less than 5 minutes.