Obama Job Approval On Foreign Policy Hits Low In New Poll

President Obama is losing public support in the one area where he's generally had broad support from the public in the past.


President Obama’s overall job approval has, throughout his term in office, fluctuated within a fairly narrow band. With exceptions that can be tied to explicit events such as the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the 2010 elections, and the 2012 elections, those numbers have stayed within that range. Things have been different when you dig deeper into the polls and look at his job approval on specific areas of policy. On the issue of the economy, for example, the President’s numbers have been upside down since late 2009, something that’s understandable given the state of the economy over the past four years. The same has largely been true of the President’s job approval numbers on the issue of health care, which started turning negative virtually from the moment that Congress started working on what eventually became the Affordable Court Act.  There’s one issue, though, on which the President has generally had high and positive job approval numbers, and that’s foreign policy. For the most part, as the chart at this last link shows, the public has given the President good marks on foreign policy, as it traditionally has for all Presidents in the recent past. Recently, though, things seem to have changed, as a new Quinnipiac poll indicates:


Back in May, 47% approved of Obama’s job on foreign police, while 43% disapproved. A year ago the numbers were 47% approve/40% disapprove. Now, we’re at 40% approve and a rather stunning 52% disapprove. What could account for this? It’s not as though the United States has suffered any real setbacks in international affairs over the past year. Indeed, one could even argue that it has been the opposite. Digging deeper into the poll, though, it’s clear that there’s clear public disapproval of several recent decisions made on the foreign policy front by the Obama White House:

Even on specific issues, things are bleak for the president. Just 33 percent Americans agree with the path the president wants to take in Syria. And while pressure from lawmakers and some foreign policy groups may be on President Obama to intervene in the country, the American people still don’t think he should.

The results reaffirm a general trend among Americans in recent polling on Syria: they don’t truly think the U.S. should be providing weapons to the opposition, nor do they think it’s in our best interests to get involved. But that’s not stopping the Obama administration from going ahead with its plans to arm some of the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Among those polled, only 27 percent of Americans think getting involved in Syria serves the national interest of the U.S. Just 27 percent of Americans also think the U.S. should provide arms and military supplies to rebel groups, while 59 percent of Americans would oppose such action. This lack of support goes across party lines, as Republicans, Democrats and independents show similar numbers.

There also appears to be some dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Afghanistan:

Voters remain split 46 percent to 45 percent on his handling of the war in Afghanistan.

Here are some results for other Afghanistan questions:

Thinking about the situation in Afghanistan, do you think the United States should or should not negotiate with members of the Taliban?

Yes 28%, No 63%

 Do you think the United States should or should not negotiate with members of the Taliban, if such negotiations could end the war in Afghanistan?

Yes 53%, No 40%

 Some people say the United States should not negotiate with terrorists because it encourages more terrorism. Do you agree or disagree?

Agree 60%, Disagree 33%

 Some people say the United States should have negotiations with the Taliban because it will get American troops home more quickly. Do you agree or disagree?

Agree 35%, Disagree 57%

Other than sheer war weariness, it’s hard to say why the public has seemingly turned on Obama on Afghanistan, unless its just collateral damage from the disapproval of his policy in Syria. In either case, it does look as though the public has turned on the President in the one area where he has enjoyed a positive reputation for pretty much the entirety of his Presidency.

Clearly the President would prefer that the public be behind even in an area like this where he has broad degrees of discretion. In part this is because he does need the support of Congress in certain policy areas, such as Syria, if he’s going to move his policy forward, and it’s easier to get that support if the public is behind you. It’s worth noting, of course, that this is just one data point in a larger universe, though. It’s entirely possible that, three or six months ago, the President’s foreign policy numbers will turn back around to the positive side. This could happen quickly if a foreign policy crisis leads to the “rally” effect that we’ve seen so many times before. If that happens, then the President has nothing to worry about. If it doesn’t turn around, though, then foreign policy will join the economy and health care as one of those policy areas where the President’s job approval is upside down. While some will argue that President Obama doesn’t have to worry about these numbers so much anymore since he won’t be running for re-election anymore, there’s no denying that they could have a serious impact on his party’s fortunes in next year’s elections and on the President’s ability to push his second term agenda through Congress, something he hasn’t’ had very much luck doing since being inaugurated in January to begin with. Given that his lame duck period is likely only about 18 months away from beginning, at the very most, that doesn’t give the President much time to get anything done.

FILED UNDER: National Security, 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. Caj says:

    Had the poll numbers been really high in support I doubt we’d even be talking about it. So much better when it’s a negative report! All those who are against his policy should get out there and see if they can do a better job! So easy for all the armchair critics out there to complain! He’s damned if he does too much and damned if he does too little. What a thankless job. They couldn’t pay me enough to become President, especially having to work with the obstructionist cretins in the Republican Party.

  2. edmondo says:

    Gee, while Obama was “focused like a laser” on creating jobs. the foreign policy thing got away from him. I thought he said he could multi-task?

  3. stonetools says:

    I think the public is mad because he didn’t use his magic wand, chant the Imperio spell, and command everyone to live in peace.
    You know the magic wand, right? Its next to the button on his desk that makes the economy go up and down (Apparently Edmondo is mad that he just doesn’t push that button).

  4. edmondo says:


    wait until they start polling how Americans feel about Obama’s performance in the healthcare arena. I know the Wegmans people must love him


  5. Tyrell says:

    These numbers will go up some when all the soldiers are out of Afghanistan. There is still the Libyan terrorist murders at the embassy. I think Libya is trying, but they need to round up the ones responsible and get on with a trial. The president’s trip to Berlin did not go well, with a bizarre speech. A lot of the world’s leaders recently were in Afghanistan for unknown reasons. Some weird news coming out of there. Present and future hot spots are Iran, Syria, and Egypt. Good that N. Korea has calmed down. Confusing and unclear policies remain concerning Egypt and Syria.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Obama Job Approval On Foreign Policy Hits Low In New Poll

    Well DUH!!!!! He has not invaded a single Muslim country! What is up with that????

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Gee, while Obama was “focused like a laser” on creating jobs.

    Gee like the GOP was????? While they voted to repeal the ACA 37, 39, 42, who knows how many times without ever putting forth even ONE jobs bill???? While Obama put up at least 3 jobs bills? And the GOP blocked ALL of them???

    Come back when you have a pertinent point. Better yet, come back when you grow up.

  8. bill says:

    well, he’s been pretty absent from what’s going on in the world. he did have a nice vacation in africa from what i heard.

  9. edmondo says:
  10. PJ says:

    Oh crap, now he’ll never get reelected!

  11. edmondo says:


    He might. He’s got enough phone tap information to give J. Edgar Hoover a hard-on.

  12. David M says:


    Obviously the increase in part time employees is due to a portion of the health care law that was delayed for a year, and affects relatively few companies, rather than the sequester.

  13. Pinky says:

    This one’s easy. People equate President Obama’s foreign policy with the Arab Spring. Candidate Obama talked about healing the world after the confrontational Bush, and during the past 5 years there have been signs of improvement in the Middle East. Now, there is an element of magical thinking here, but there always is with approval/disapproval surveys. But with the Middle East looking less healthy lately, the “Obama Doctrine” is looking less praiseworthy.

  14. Woody says:

    Does North Korea still have nukes? FAIL.

    Is there a Wal-Mart in Tehran? FAIL.

    And the fact the rest of the world isn’t fervent Baptist by now completely proves the President isn’t an acceptable Christian.

    I’d love to cross-index foreign policy polls with actual knowledge of foreign lands:

    Marge: The students took a half hour to locate Canada on a map!
    Homer: Aw, Marge, that’s understandable, all tucked away down there . . .

  15. Tillman says:

    I’m blaming Syria. That was a news cycle/pundit war the administration should have ignored.

  16. john425 says:

    Lemme see: Stimulus failure, job creations failure, “shovel ready” failures, secure borders failure, enforce federal laws failure , transparency in government failure and global foreign policy failure.

    But…he regularly votes “Present.”

  17. wr says:

    @bill: “he did have a nice vacation in africa from what i heard. ”

    Yes, bragging about getting all your news from Glenn Beck really does make you look smart.