Obama Continues Slipping In Public Opinion Polls

Time to start talking about lame ducks?

Obama Sad Presser

As I’ve noted before, President Obama’s approval and favorability numbers began taking a serious dive after reports of the error filled roll out of the Affordable Care Act, and related issues such as the large number of people receiving notices that their individual health insurance policies were being canceled, began to fill the media airwaves after the government shutdown ended in mid-October. Of greatest concern to the President in many of those polls wasn’t just the fact that his job approval numbers were hitting new lows, a problem he’d faced before and which all Presidents tend to face at one or more points during their Presidency, but also the fact that polling was indicating that the public was beginning to doubt his trustworthiness and leadership skills. Historically, those numbers have proven far more difficult for Presidents to turn around than simple job approval and, once lost, they tend to cause problems not just for the President’s agenda, but also for his political party as it heads into the last midterm elections of his time in office. To a large degree, of course, this was all tied into the problems that his signature legislation was facing and the conventional wisdom has been that the President could make up some of this dip if things started turning around with regard to the implementation of the PPACA. Based on a new series of polls, though, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence yet that things are significantly turning in the Presidents favor.

First up, there’s a new Quinnipiac University poll showing President Obama’s job approval hitting a new low:

President Barack Obama’s job approval among American voters drops to a new low, a negative 38 – 57 percent, as the outlook for Democrats running for Congress and the U.S. Senate fades also, according to a national poll released today. He even gets a negative 41 – 49 percent among voters 18 to 29 years old and a lackluster 50 – 43 percent approval among Hispanic voters.

The president’s job approval compares to a negative 39 – 54 percent score in a November 12 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.

Today, Obama gets negative scores of 6 – 92 percent among Republicans, 30 – 62 percent among independent voters, 31 – 64 percent among men, 44 – 49 percent among women and 29 – 65 among white voters. Approval is 76 – 18 percent among Democrats and 85 – 9 percent among black voters.

American voters say 41 – 38 percent that they would vote for a Republican over a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives, the first time this year the Democrats come up on the short end of this generic ballot. Independent voters back Republican candidates 41 – 28 percent. Voters also say 47 – 42 percent that they would like to see Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate and the House. Independent voters go Republican 50 – 35 percent for each.

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll also puts the President’s job approval at a new low:

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that more Americans disapprove of the president’s job performance than ever before; half say they’re either disappointed or dissatisfied with his presidency and 54 percent believe he’s facing a long-term setback.

Perhaps more significantly, Obama has seen a drop in key presidential attributes.

Just 28 percent give the president high grades for being able to achieve his goals (down 16 points from January); only 37 percent give him high marks for being honest and straightforward (down 5 points from June); and 44 percent give him high marks for being able to handle a crisis (down another 5 points since June).

“These are tough and sobering numbers for the president and his administration,” said Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff.

While the past year has presented Obama with several different challenges – the political targeting scandal inside the Internal Revenue Service, the leaking of National Security Agency information, the government shutdown in October – the main culprit for his current woes has been the troubled launch of his signature health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act.

Indeed, for the first time in the poll, a majority now views the health law as a bad idea instead of a good one.”Make no mistake, the president has been weighed down by one issue: his health care law,” Yang adds.


According to the poll, Obama’s overall job-approval rating stands at 43 percent, up 1 point from the previous NBC/WSJ survey conducted in late October, his lowest showing ever in the poll.

But 54 percent say they disapprove of his job, which is the highest mark in his presidency.

In addition, for the second straight survey, Obama’s favorable/unfavorable score is a net-negative (42 percent positive, 46 percent negative).

And a combined 50 percent say they are either “disappointed” or “dissatisfied” with the president, versus a combined 28 percent who are “proud” or “satisfied.”

Another 22 percent say they’re mixed.

McInturff, the GOP pollster, compares these declining numbers to what happened to George W. Bush after his administration’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina, explaining that Bush experienced a similar drop in job approval, in his favorable/unfavorable rating and in key presidential attributes.

“We have a long way to go in [Obama’s] presidency,” McInturff says. But he calls Obama’s current poll numbers “a very critical inflection point.”

Additional bad polling news can be found in newly released polls from Bloomberg News, the Associated Press, and McClatchy/Marist College, all of which show the President hitting the lowest numbers of his Presidency in job approval and other measurements. However, the news isn’t all bad for the President. The Daily Tracking Polls from Gallup and Rasmussen show the President’s job approval numbers as being slightly better than other polls do, although it’s worth noting that Rasmussen’s poll is a poll of “Likely Voters” while most of the other polls are polls of “Adults.” Additionally, the new New York Times/CBS News polls shows a slight rebound for the President at least as measured by that poll:

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s approval ratings, which hit his all-time low last month, have returned to where they were before the rollout of the health care law’s enrollment process, but Americans still lack confidence in the White House’s management of the Affordable Care Act, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The public’s opinion of the law itself has improved after repairs to the enrollment website.

According to the poll, 42 percent of Americans now approve of Mr. Obama’s overall performance, and 50 percent disapprove. That is not exactly good news for the president, but is better than his numbers in mid-November, after he admitted he had fumbled the rollout of the health care law’s website. Then, just 37 percent approved and 57 percent disapproved in a CBS News poll.

The findings suggest that for Mr. Obama, the political fallout from the website’s start-up might be over. The White House says the website, HealthCare.gov, is now functioning smoothly for most users.

But Americans do not appear to be convinced that the problems have been fixed. Just one in six Americans in the poll said the online insurance enrollment process was going very well or somewhat well.

And while more than a third perceived the website as having improved, a larger number — 44 percent — said it was neither getting better nor worse.

The success of HealthCare.gov — an online marketplace where consumers are supposed to be able to shop for insurance coverage, compare prices, determine if they are eligible for subsidies and enroll in plans — is crucial to the success of the Affordable Care Act.

Americans seem to be giving Mr. Obama a pass for the website’s technical problems after it opened to the public on Oct. 1, according to follow-up interviews. Both Democrats and Republicans interviewed did fault Mr. Obama for what they viewed as flawed management decisions.

“I don’t really put all the blame on the president,” said Pete Brown, 56, a Republican from Edelstein, Ill., who said he disagreed with the health law’s concept. “I mean, Obama isn’t in the day-to-day activities. But he didn’t put the right leadership overseeing it to get it into place. If it was going to be done, then it should have been done well.”

Lise Colgan, 60, a Democrat from Cottage Grove, Ore., who approves of the health law, agreed. “I think the president could have been a little more hands-on with the botched rollout,” she said, “but I don’t blame him for technology failures.”

The law itself remains unpopular; half of the respondents disapproved of the Affordable Care Act, while 39 percent approved, the poll found. But Americans seem to view the law more favorably now than a month ago, when 61 percent disapproved and just 31 percent approved.


Among Democrats, support of the president’s performance of the issue jumped by 11 points from last month. Young people also appear to have returned to prior levels of support, with approval of his handling of health care up 14 points since last month among those ages 18 to 29.

Yet the troubles with the law’s rollout may have wounded the president. About half of Americans say Mr. Obama is honest and trustworthy, a substantial drop from September 2012 and a figure unchanged from three weeks ago, when the website’s problems dominated news reports. And about four in 10 say Mr. Obama shares their priorities for the country, a drop from when he first took office and also unchanged from three weeks ago.

The USA Today/Pew Research poll also shows the President’s numbers seeming to stabilize, but the numbers for the PPACA continuing to slide:

A year-end USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll chronicles what a drag the Affordable Care Act has become on Obama’s reputation, helping to drive down his standing as a trustworthy leader and one who can get things done to the lowest levels of his presidency. Disapproval of the health care law hits a new high.

In one of the few bright spots for the president in the survey, approval of his handling of the economy has surged by 11 percentage points in the space of a month, albeit to an anemic 42%. The improvement presumably reflects reports in recent days that the nation’s jobless rate has declined, economic growth has picked up, and the stock market has soared.

The slide in Obama’s overall job approval rating in the past five Pew polls has been stemmed, now at 45% approve-49% disapprove — not great, to be sure, but better than before.


In the poll, 54% disapprove of the health care law, 41% approve — the worst rating for the Affordable Care Act since it was enacted three and a half years ago. Some of the key groups that supporters hoped would rally behind the law aren’t doing so, at least not yet. Forty-five percent of those without insurance approve of the law. Among those with incomes under $30,000 a year, the group most likely to qualify for federal subsidies, 43% approve. Forty-one percent of those under 30 and 44% of women approve.

What’s more, Americans are inclined to view the problems the law has faced this fall as long-term problems that show fundamental flaws (50%) rather than short-term problems that can be resolved (44%).a

Rhetoric and public relations won’t be enough to build support for Obamacare, cautions political scientist Jeffrey Cohen of Fordham University. “What will save Obamacare as a policy is its effectiveness, and nothing Obama says can do much about that.”


Fifty-one percent of Americans say Obama is not a good manager. He receives the lowest ratings of his presidency on being able to get things done (43% say he can, down 14 points since the beginning of the year) and for being trustworthy (52%, down 14 points).

Though most Americans continue to call him a good communicator and someone who “cares about people like me,” he has dropped on both measures. Only the judgment that he stands up for what he believes hasn’t been dented.

Taking all of this together, we see that the RealClearPolitics average of the President’s Job Approval shows him at 53.3% Disapprove and 42.3% Approve, precisely an 11 point margin. This is actually a slight improvement from the week before Thanksgiving, when the average showed nearly a 14 point gap between disapproval and approval. Nonetheless, the number of polls that show the President’s numbers at record lows is quite extraordinary and, as noted above, the fact that each of these polls, even those that show slight improvement in job approval from their last iteration, also shows that respondents are expressing doubts about the Presidents trustworthiness and his leadership abilities, which suggests that the impact that the initial roll out of the Affordable Care Act had on that part of his legacy will be harder to heal than just a matter of getting a website to work right. Once voters start doubting that the President is telling them the truth, or that he isn’t completely up to the task of leadership, it becomes difficult or that to be fixed easily and it has the potential to be a constant thorn in the side for the rest of a President’s time in office.

The President, of course, doesn’t need to directly worry about his job approval numbers at this point in his Presidency. He’s not going to be running for reelection again, and he’s going to be President until January 20, 2017 regardless of what his job approval numbers are at any given point in time. At the same time, though, the President’s numbers are important to the extent that he wishes to advance his agenda to any significant degree over the next three years. In that regard, his primary concerns are both what impact his personal relationship with the public has on his party’s fate in the upcoming midterm elections, and what impact that relationship might have on his ability to influence what happens on Capitol Hill even if his party manages to maintain control of the Senate. In that regard, it’s worth noting that the Generic Congressional Ballot, which just two months ago and for most of the past year was showing a Democratic advantage, now shows a GOP advantage by 2.6 points:

RCP Generic December 2013

Now, as I’ve noted before, the Generic Ballot isn’t always a good predictor of how the midterms will turn out, especially this far in advance. However, it’s rather apparent that there has been a serious impact on the Democratic advantage in the generic ballot. Obviously, a great deal of the drop in support for Democrats can be attributed to the Obamacare roll out, but the President’s job approval also plays a role here because it tends to influence how Democrats up for reelection are likely to approach their own relationship with the President. For example, it was already unlikely that the incumbents running in states that Mitt Romney won in 2012, such as Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska, West Virginia, Montana, Nebraska, and South Dakota, were going to be emphasizing their ties to President Obama to begin with. If his job approval’s continue at their current level as we get closer to the election, that becomes even more likely, and it opens up the possibility that Democrats in other states, such as Virginia, New Hampshire, and North Carolina, will seek to distance themselves from the President. Whether it will work or not is an open question, but we may find as we get closer to Election Day 2014 that the President will be doing most of his campaigning in states and districts friendly to Democrats rather than in states that lean Republican where Democratic incumbents may be in trouble.

In addition to having a potential impact on the midterm elections, a President with weakened poll numbers is also likely to find his ability to influence events on Capitol Hill to be severely limited. There comes a point in every two term Presidency, of course, when the man sitting in the Oval Office becomes a “lame duck.” Eventually, attention begins to shift to the race to pick the two people who will stand for election to succeed the sitting President and legislators in both parties shift their own attention to preparing for another round of elections. At that point, the President’s ability to achieve anything that requires Congressional cooperation becomes severely diminished, even if his own party has control of one or both Chambers of Congress. It has happened to every two term President since the ratification of the 22nd Amendment, and it will happen to Barack Obama at some point as well, the only question is when. If it turns out that his job approval and related numbers have entered a state of permanent decline, or even just stagnation, that day will come much sooner than it otherwise would have. When other President’s have reached this point in their Presidencies, they tend to shift their attention overseas and into the foreign policy area, where they have much more freedom to operate independent of the need to obtain Congressional cooperation.

Could President Obama turn all of this around? Of course he could, as I’ve noted many times before polls like these are just snapshots in time and there’s always a chance that there will be some kind of major event that shift public opinion. In fact, that’s happened several times already during the President’s time in office. It’s worth noting those, that the boosts in job approval that come at those times tend to be temporary at best. For the most part, it seems likely to me that the job approval and other numbers that the President is seeing today are likely to remain fairly stable for the rest of his Presidency, which means that he has likely reached the peak of his influence over domestic politics and it’s all downhill from here.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. C. Clavin says:

    “…which means that he has likely reached the peak of his influence over domestic politics and it’s all downhill from here…”

    Interesting that you say that…just after his refusal to negotiate on the shutdown and the debt limit in October has forced Republicans to finally cave on taxes (fees) and come to the table and negotiate an actual budget deal. A major sea change in Republican behavior since the ’11 mid-terms to you signals no influence.
    You’re worse than just a hack…you’re an idiot.

  2. stonetools says:

    Actually, another possibility is that both Obamacare and Obama’s numbers have reached their lows. Now that the website is being fixed and is moving towards full functionality and as people realize that the crappy high deductible plans that they “liked” are being replaced by better plans that cost less after subsidies, then the numbers may rebound .
    You of course don’t give a damn about this, Doug, but millions of people in Appalachia (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky) are going to get health care through expanded Medicare, and other millions in Republican Appalachia (West Virginia, Indiana, Arkansas, etc) are going to wonder why they aren’t getting that. Republican governors don’t have a good answer for that (maybe you could think of one?).
    I also expect the Republicans to do something stupid about the debt ceiling. Bottom line, I expect prediction # 1, 765 about the end of the Obama Presidency will fail again. ( Remember when the IRS! and BENGHAZI! was going to sink Obama?)

  3. Jeremy says:


    Oh, you mean those better plans that took away people’s doctors, made it harder for folks to find care, and are actually hurting some cancer patients so much they are now concerned they’re going to die?


    Yeah, that’s SOOOOOO much better.

  4. beth says:

    @Jeremy: Yeah because before Obamacare thousands of people never lost their insurance plans, got kicked off because they got cancer or had their employers change plans forcing them to change doctors. Oh that’s right, they did but you just didn’t give a shit about it before. Why do you care now?

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    The only poll that matters is the one that takes place on November 4, 2014.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    Yeah…that old story was thoroughly debunked a long time ago. Her problems actually stem from the magic hand of the free-market.
    So…seeing how your comment is factually incorrect…I assume you will now be changing your opinion re: Obamacare?

  7. inhumans99 says:

    Doug…I am sure President Obama does not care if you call him a lame duck president, heck, I don’t think he cares if you call him Shirley, as long as things continue to improve.

    In the past two weeks there was a decent jobs report, and just in the past day or two, we learn that the Republican party is taking some visible steps to tamp down on the crazies in their party, and just this morning it was announced that retailers actually did okay in November, despite the many doom and gloom articles I read concerning plummeting sales at retailers across the nation.

    Seriously, things could be so much worse right now, and if McCain were our president he would be THRILLED at politicians on his team that put together a budget, and being able to sit down at his table in the oval office to read about increased sales on main street and new jobs being created on a monthly basis (even if the pace of hiring is still nowhere near where it should be during a recovery). Fair enough?

  8. al-Ameda says:

    Today, Obama gets negative scores of 6 – 92 percent among Republicans,

    What happened to the other 2%, ‘undecided’?

  9. stonetools says:


    Your reply would mean something if you could show me that the conservatives gave a flying f&*k about people losing or gain access to health care. however, its crystal clear that conservatives don’t. Their alternative is Obamacare is NOTHING and its been NOTHING. Downvote me all you like but there is ZERO evidence that the conservatives care about helping Americans get health insurance. Now if you conservative commenters have any such evidence, by all means present it. if not, then just admit that criticisms about Obamacare’s failures to deliver health insurance are in bad faith. Let me outsource to Ezra Klien:

    When Republicans were forced to come up with alternatives for Obamacare, high-deductible plans were core to those proposals. “Conservatives have suggested deregulating Obamacare’s exchanges to make it easier to provide policies with high deductibles,” wrote Ramesh Ponnuru. One of those conservatives was right-wing darling Dr. Ben Carson. “In order to right the ship, we need to return the responsibility for good health care to the patient and the health care provider,” he said. “One of the best ways to do this is through health savings accounts, which patients can control.”
    This always baffled Obamacare’s supporters. “The minimal, or bronze, insurance option allows out-of-pocket spending of up to $12,500 for a family of four,” wrote Jonathan Cohn. “Those are some pretty high deductibles!”
    Now that those high deductibles are here, Republicans have decided that they are, if anything, too high. Just one more broken promise.
    Obama’s pledge that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” is also under fire. The issue here is that insurers entering the competitive health marketplaces are tightening their networks in order to cut costs and improve quality. It’s worked: Premiums in the marketplaces are far lower than was expected when Obamacare passed.
    This, too, is a success for a longtime conservative health-policy idea. Insurance exchanges have been in every major Republican health-care bill since the early 1990s. They were in Paul Ryan’s 2009 health-care proposal. They’re the basis of the GOP’s plan for Medicare reform.

    Bottom line? The ACA IS the conservative alternative on Health Care Reform. Their problem is Obama proposed and implemented it. Now may be if he was less black and less Democratic, they would like it better, but sadly for them, he isn’t

  10. Dividist says:

    Sad to see racism increasing so dramatically in the United States. Since his Real Clear Politics disapproval average was closer to 25% when he took office, it’s clear that racism has doubled in that time.

  11. al-Ameda says:


    Sad to see racism increasing so dramatically in the United States. Since his Real Clear Politics disapproval average was closer to 25% when he took office, it’s clear that racism has doubled in that time.

    Exactly, the only true victims of racism in America today are white people.

  12. Dividist says:

    @C. Clavin: Not everyone feels the budget deal was a triumph for Obama.

    Business Insider: Three Charts That Show That Republicans Have Won The Budget War

  13. C. Clavin says:

    My point is not that the budget deal is a win for Obama or Democrats…my point is that his refusal to negotiate over the shutdown and the debt ceiling forced Republicans to finally come to the table and move on taxes…after refusing to for two years.

  14. beth says:

    @Dividist: Did you even read that article?

  15. JKB says:

    @beth: Why do you care now?

    He’s paying for it now.

    You wanted people to get involved, their involved.

  16. Dividist says:

    @beth: Yes. What’s you point?

  17. beth says:

    @JKB: He’s always been paying for it – we all have. (And whining about it really doesn’t count as being involved.)

  18. JKB says:


    Really, paying for discretionary birth control? Maternity coverage for the infertile or sexual unable to bear a child?

    In any case, your premise that something must be done is wrong. Sometimes the best course of action is to leave things be. Of course, you can’t buy votes you’ve already bought so the politicians come up with new and intricate schemes to sell the rubes.

    Fact is, while there is some churning, a lot of people are going to be left without coverage under Obamacare. A lot are going to go bankrupt simply from the built in costs. Many are going to find healthcare is now a larger, not smaller, portion of their expenditures. Obamacare in reality doesn’t solve these problems. It just churns the water.

    Time will reveal this, the lies will continue. Now, the tricky part for you Progs is Obamacare is already seen as a government incompetence so trying to sell a bigger, better government deal later will be a lot harder. As Krauthammer just predicted, January is going to be rough for the Dems. Reality bites….hard

  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Yay! It’s the “obsessing over polling for an election that is a year away” show.

    Again …

  20. beth says:

    @JKB: You really should do some reading up on how insurance works. You don’t seem to understand the concept.

  21. David M says:


    JKB: You really should do some reading up on how insurance works. You don’t seem to understand the concept.

    Posted in every health care thread ever when JKB has weighed in on what’s wrong with Obamacare.

  22. dazedandconfused says:


    Yay! It’s the “obsessing over polling for an election that is a year away” show.

    No kidding. Obama has been lame-ducked since we gave him a Tea Party congress to work with, but admitting that would suck all the “air” out of the room. We can’t expect our cable-news, talk-radio celebrities, and like punditry, who are paid millions a year, to spend time boring people to to death. Take away the drama of scandal and “horse racing”, and what’s left? Talking about issues in depth?

  23. C. Clavin says:

    Clearly you still haven’t figured out how insurance works.
    Which makes me wonder why you hold such strong opinions on the subject.
    I guess it’s just that the President is black.

  24. Tyrell says:

    Second terms I remember: Eisenhower – lots of health problems and an image (false) of being out of touch. Johnson: Vietnam and riots in cities as radicals tried to start an insurgency (“this country was under siege” Joe Califano), Reagan – Iran arms scandal and loss of direction, Bush – Iraq. So second terms usually do not turn out well. Obama needs to spend more time on the golf course.

  25. C. Clavin says:

    Republicans and a Southern Democrat.
    Obama will be fine.

  26. C. Clavin says:

    And you forgot Mr. Nixon.

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @JKB: And your alternative is….?


    May you have a pre-existing condition and be trying to get health insurance under the pre-Obamacare system.

  28. Tyrell says:

    @C. Clavin: How could I forget Nixon, the ultimate pragmatist. Nixon – Watergate

  29. Moderate Mom says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how ugly some people can be when commenting here. I’m just relieved that I don’t have the pleasure of knowing them personally.

  30. mannning says:

    Early predictions of an Obama catastrophe seem to be tumbling out all over the place, from ACA to Benghazi, to the IRS, Iran red lines in the sand, his disastrous fiscal and foreign policies, to his obvious lack of leadership skills, his contempt of the Constitution, and to the many false promises of his two campaigns, and his false selling of the ACA.( you can keep your doctor and your insurance).

    It is a testimony to Obama’s legion of know-nothing and financially dependent supporters that his ratings are amazingly so very high right now. When one sums up his years in office, a sound and honest Congress would have begun impeachment proceedings a long time ago, but his Senate followers under Heavy Horse Harry Reid, and in the House with Popinjay (read it to find out what’s in it) Pelosi, have been his saviors. We have two years of this agony yet to suffer through, and probably 20 more years of recovery from his progressive mistakes, and the loading of the judiciary with partisan judges.

    May God protect us all.

  31. Tyrell says:

    Maybe it is time for the president to go on an extended farewell tour. Here is a tentative itinerary: Outer Mongolia, Manchuria, East Germany, Transylvania, Timbuktu.

  32. mannning says:


    Please add: Antartica, The Arctic , Bora Bora, The Kureil Islands, and Madagascar to his farewell tour, and prohibit his use of AF-1, the staff and support planes for the trips. He should pay his own way and provide his own communications, security, and local transport.

  33. al-Ameda says:


    Maybe it is time for the president to go on an extended farewell tour. Here is a tentative itinerary: Outer Mongolia, Manchuria, East Germany, Transylvania, Timbuktu.

    Or maybe it’s time for the House Republican delegation to return to their beloved homeland – North Korea.

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