Good News For GOP, Bad News For Obama In Latest CBS/New York Times Poll

President Obama hits new job approval lows, while the GOP seems poised for success in November,

Obama Sad Presser

A new poll from CBS and The New York Times has good news for the GOP, but bad news for the President, especially when concerning the public’s confidence, or more appropriately, the lack thereof, in his plan to defeat ISIS:

A New York Times/CBS News poll shows that President Obama’s approval ratings are similar to those of President George W. Bush in 2006 when Democrats swept both houses of Congress in the midterm elections.

A deeply unpopular Republican Party is nonetheless gaining strength heading into the midterms, as the American public’s frustration with Mr. Obama has manifested itself in low ratings for his handling of foreign policy and terrorism.

The generic ballot question, which measures national sentiment for the House of Representatives vote, shows a notable swing of voters toward the Republican Party and away from Democrats. Voters’ dissatisfaction with their own representatives has hit a high as nearly two-thirds say they are ready to throw their own representatives out of office.

Republican candidates are further buoyed by the fact that voters trust their party over the Democrats to better handle some issues voters consider to be the most important. The economy ranks at the top of that list followed by health care, terrorism and immigration. The Republican Party easily tops the Democratic Party in handling the economy, terrorism and foreign policy while voters are about evenly divided between the two parties on immigration. Democrats do hold a five-point advantage on health care, and many Republican candidates have shied away from making the president’s signature health care law a campaign issue.


At just 34 percent, the rating of Mr. Obama’s handling of foreign policy is a record low for him, but not as low as the 25 percent that Mr. Bush eventually reached. At 41 percent, Mr. Obama’s rating on terrorism is not only his worst personally, but is significantly lower than Mr. Bush in 2006. This is the first time Mr. Obama’s numbers have shown that at least 50 percent disapprove of his handling of the issue.

The approval ratings of Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush are in sharp contrast to the only other two-term presidents who served in the last four decades. Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan enjoyed ratings above sixty percent at this point in their second terms.

Perhaps the biggest concern for the Administration, and for Democrats, though, is that the public seems to have absolutely no confidence in this plan to fight ISIS:

According to a new CBS News/New York Times poll, 57 percent of Americans don’t think Mr. Obama is being tough enough in dealing with ISIS militants, while just 31 percent think his approach is about right. Republicans are particularly critical of Mr. Obama on this measure: 83 percent of Republicans don’t think he is being tough enough.

In addition, Mr. Obama’s handling of the threat of terrorism, once considered an area of strength, is now at the lowest of his presidency. Just 41 percent approve of his handling of the issue, a drop of 12 points since March.

Since March, the president’s approval rating on handling terrorism has declined across the political spectrum: Republicans (down 11 points), Democrats (down 16 points) and independents (down 10 points).

The president’s approval rating on handling foreign policy, now at 34 percent, is also a record low. His ratings on the economy and immigration continue to be negative. Only 30 percent approve of his handling of immigration and 40 percent approve his handling of the economy.

Mr. Obama’s overall job rating remains more negative than positive. Forty percent approve of his overall job performance, which is similar to last month, although his rating is 5 points lower than it was heading into the 2010 congressional elections, when Republicans won control of the House of Representatives.

At 40 percent, Mr.Obama’s job approval rating is similar to George W. Bush’s in September 2006, before the 2006 midterm elections – when Democrats captured control of the House and the Senate. Mr. Bush was at 37 percent approval 8 years ago. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan were at 62 and 63 percent approval, respectively, at the same point in their presidencies.

These numbers aren’t too much of a surprise, of course. Since the beginning of the summer we have seen the President’s job approval numbers, both overall, and on specific issues such as the economy and foreign policy decline to lows that he has not seen at all during the course of his Presidency. Even before the ISIS crisis began, polling was indicating that the public had little confidence in the President’s leadership or his judgment when it came to issues such as foreign policy. What’s interesting, though, and perhaps a sign of future trouble for the Administration, is the fact that these numbers have not seemed to improve as American’s have become more concerned about the threat posed by ISIS and the possibility that they could launch terrorist attacks in the United Stats, which most analysts believe to be a remote possibility at this point. Ordinarily in situations like this, you see a President’s approval numbers tick upward as the public rallies around the President in the face of an international crisis. That doesn’t seem to be happening in this case, at least not at the moment, and it suggests that the President is going to have a hard time selling the public on the idea that he can lead the nation effectively during the current crisis in the Middle East. Something similar happened to President Bush as we headed into the 2006 midterms, and neither he nor his party recovered from it during the remainder of his Presidency. If that’s the road that President Obama is headed down, then November could prove to be painful even if the current polling models are showing the race for Senate control to be close.

One sign of how November might shape out, of course, can be seen in the Generic Congressional Ballot. In this new poll, the GOP has a seven point lead in the Generic Ballot, which is generally considered by pollsters to be a sign that things are breaking in favor of one party or the other. This seven point lead is consistent with an earlier poll from Fox News, but there have also been polls showing a tighter GOP lead, and the RealClearPolitics average gives the GOP at 3.5 point lead. As this chart shows, however, the trend have been very positive for Republicans in recent weeks:

RCP Generic 0917

As I’ve noted before, this polling question, while it has been around for a long time, isn’t necessarily the best predictor of how a midterm election will turn out, and it doesn’t always catch waves or trends. However, it does show the extent to which public attitudes about the two parties could end up influencing the way people vote for House and Senate. I’ve noted previously that, this year, the Generic Ballot didn’t seem to be indicating any kind of Republican wave, and that has generally been true. However, it’s worth noting that in 2010 we didn’t start to see signs of the Republican wave that would come in November until late August at the earliest. This time around, it’s possible that the wave is starting a bit later, which suggests that it may not be as strong as we’ve seen in the past three Congressional elections, but it may just be enough to put the GOP over the top.


FILED UNDER: Campaign 2014, Congress, Middle East, Public Opinion Polls, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    No way Obama gets re-elected with these numbers.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin: Mitch McConnell loves it when a plan comes together. Kind of.

    I wonder what his plan will be for Hillary? Oh wait, the Senate map in ’16 heavily favors Dems. I wonder what plan Majority Leader Reid will have for McConnell.

  3. I read this article fully regarding the difference of latest and previous technologies, it’s awesome article.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    We get the weirdest spam here….

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Usually more relevant and coherent than anything Florack posts.

  6. LaMont says:

    Wow. Those are pretty bad numbers. I wonder what the people think of the GOP’s strategy to fight ISIS?

    Oh wait…

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Yeah…but Thermo Factor X is a great handle.

  8. JohnMcC says:

    @C. Clavin: You don’t like my new handle? Back to just bein’ me….

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Another interesting statistic, alongside how Obama’s approval numbers are similar to Bush’s at his 6th year:

    Eight years ago, the networks aired 124 evening news reports which cited public opinion polls about either President Bush’s overall approval rating or his handling of specific policies. In 2014, those same broadcasts produced only nine reports which mentioned public opinion surveys related to President Obama.

    Hot Air goes even further, noting that NBC commissioned numerous polls on this, then didn’t bother to report the results.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    The timing is bad. Six weeks from now people will sober up and realize ISIS is not the end of the world. Then they’ll be glad we didn’t get into a real war. But for the moment the media hysteria carries the day.

  11. edmondo says:

    @C. Clavin:

    No way Obama gets re-elected with these numbers.

    Yeah, I am sure his toxic numbers won’t have any influence on 2016, just like W’s numbers had no impact on President McCain’s campaign in 2008. LOL!!!!!!!!

  12. the Q says:

    Its truly mind boggling that the party that crushed the Dow Jones from 13k to 6300, almost destroyed the global financial system, that continually destroys the lower and middle class with redistributive wealth polices favoring the top and who led this country to 19 straight months of NEGATIVE GDP growth and oversaw 9 million layoffs in the year before Obama’s election during the greatest recession since the Great Depression are judged as being “more competent to handle the economy”. How is this phucking possible? I guess those “Americans being morons” quotes from Barnum and Mencken where prescient.

    Oh, Gallup just reported that the Nazi Party is favored over the Likud Party in handling the Israeli economy since “they make the trains run on time.”

  13. PAUL HOOSON says:

    Yeah, let’s vote in the party that favors government shutdowns and has only returned an annual GDP growth rate about 60% that of the Democrats when they held the White House. Slow economic times will solve all our problems…Who needs economic growth, jobs or a healthy business environment?

  14. stonetools says:

    @the Q:

    I used to think in the marketplace of ideas, the best ideas will win and good analysis will triumph over the bad. Now after seeing Fox News in action and the results of four decades of right wing propoganda, I know I am wrong.
    Repeating right weing nostrums, lying your a$$ off, and stoking fears among older whites that the black man is coming to take away your stuff works to convince people to believe anything and to vote against their interests.
    I referenced an article yesterday in which an older lady in Kentucky benefitted from the ACA and is receiving medical care that she never would have recieved without it. Guess who she is voting for in November?

    But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.”

  15. Anonne says:

    The problem is that most Americans are selfish, stupid, or lazy. Kitchen table economics sound good but they are not representative of what governments can do.

    That’s why Cheney infamously said that “deficits don’t matter.” He was right, to an extent, but that is only the common wisdom under Republican leadership.

    Most people who claim to be fiscally conservative are full of crap. How are we going to pay for this foray against ISIS? They can’t see farther than their nose.

  16. edmondo says:

    I guess those “Americans being morons” quotes from Barnum and Mencken where prescient.

    Sounds like someone got some poll results that they don’t like…..Wait till November.

  17. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @stonetools: I referenced an article yesterday in which an older lady in Kentucky benefitted from the ACA and is receiving medical care that she never would have recieved without it. Guess who she is voting for in November?

    Yeah, I have absolutely no problem why you’d find that incomprehensible. The idea that someone might have priorities higher than “as long as I got mine, screw everybody else” is foreign to many of today’s left.

    I guess Granny should just say that as long as she’s taken care of, screw her grandchildren who are getting boned over, and will get boned over for years and years to come.

  18. bill says:

    well, i guess the honeymoon’s over.
    @Anonne: it’s hard to listen to liberals ask about finances for some reason. mainly as they never seem to care how much money get’s thrown their way- let alone where it comes from! but this is obama’s foray, he owns this and you all need to deal with it.

  19. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Neil Hudelson: That’s not a very high bar to jump.

  20. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @edmondo: I would certainly agree that Bush’s actions and popularity had a generally negative effect on McCain’s polling in the election, but they also are not the prime factors in his loss. He lost mostly because he’s John McCain and, overall, people weren’t interested in electing him. Remember that Sarah Palin was basically a stunt to juice the turnout among the base. McCain was just like Seven-Up–“never had it, never will.”

  21. Tony W says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    The idea that someone might have priorities higher than “as long as I got mine, screw everybody else” is foreign to many of today’s left.

    More or less that is what Granny is saying by supporting the anti-ACA crowd. Cognitive dissonance is a common trait among these types.

    Easy portability of health care coverage is really only a problem for the top echelon of employers, who no longer can hold their employees hostage over their medical plan. Those employers now must compete for talent with interesting work, pay, and other benefits.

    Skilled but unhappy workers, newly confident in their ability to obtain health care, are now more free to retire and open new businesses and compete with their old employers and generally make things more expensive for these folks. Redistribution that direction is un-American and will not be tolerated.

    TLDR: The capitalists shouting “free market” from the hilltops are often not so “free market” when they seek rent in the form of repealing ACA.

  22. stonetools says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Yeah, I have absolutely no problem why you’d find that incomprehensible. The idea that someone might have priorities higher than “as long as I got mine, screw everybody else” is foreign to many of today’s left.

    Actually what she is saying , “I got mine, and my daughter got taken care of,[she got expanded Medicaid] but I hate the black man in the White House so much that I’m willing to vote against not only my interests but the millions of poor and working class Kentuckians who would be denied health care if the ACA was abolished.”

    But then that’s an acceptable conservative attitude.

  23. Pinky says:

    @stonetools: Yeah, this is all about race. Obama was polling better a few years ago back when he was white, but now that he went and became black his numbers are dropping. On the economy, 53% of voters hate black people, but on foreign policy, 58% hate black people. The decline parallels Bush’s downturn from when he turned black in 2006.

  24. Nick says:

    The whole “Democrats all want handouts” meme is so boring at this point. Calling us traitors is more fun.

  25. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @stonetools: Yeah, all those raaaaacist 29ers and 49ers, plus those raaaaacist Minnesotans. They’d be just delighted if they had been screwed over by a program named after a white guy.

  26. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Nick: The whole “Democrats all want handouts” meme is so boring at this point. Calling us traitors is more fun.

    It’s so boring because it keeps getting said. And it keeps getting said because it’s true.

  27. rudderpedals says:

    I’ll cop to that. Social safety nets for the unfortunate and the infirm are moral and humane and necessary, but they’re handouts. I don’t know where to go with this. The label tends to inflame. It is what it is.