Obama Poll Numbers Dropping

The latest NPR poll, conducted by Democrat Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Republican Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies (Disclosure: My wife is COO) finds President Obama’s approval barely over the majority mark and serious doubts about his health plan.

The pollsters found 53 percent approving of the president’s handling of his job, while 42 percent disapproved — the narrowest gap of the Obama presidency to date. Most of the approving group said they approved strongly, and an even greater majority of the disapproving group said they disapproved strongly.

Poll respondents liked a Democratic statement on solving health care problems better than a Republican statement (51 percent to 42 percent). However, when asked about the plan now moving through Congress, a plurality of 47 percent was opposed and 42 percent said they were in favor, based on what they had heard about the plan so far.

In another part of the poll, respondents were asked which of two statements on the economy came closer to expressing their view. The first statement: “President Obama’s economic policies helped avert an even worse crisis and are laying the foundation for our eventual economic recovery.” The second statement: “President Obama’s economic policies have run up a record federal deficit while failing to end the recession or slow the record pace of job losses.” A plurality preferred the second statement, 48 percent to 45 percent. A majority on both sides said they agreed strongly (2 to 1 among those preferring the first statement; 3 to 1 among those preferring the second).

Obama’s approval is still double that Bush had when he left office.  Then again, Bush’s popularity was historically low and Obama started with very high favorables.  The RealClearPolitics aggregate had him at 63.3 percent approval and 20.0 percent disapproval on January 27.

One of the things noted in the “Morning Edition” discussion of the NPR poll was that the Right Direction/Wrong Direction numbers were still very much in Obama’s favor.  But look at the graph:

The numbers have been on a straight line since last summer — long before Obama was elected, much less took office.  So I’m not sure that’s anything to write home about.

The bottom line here is that, as was to be expected, Obama’s approval has declined as he’s been forced to make tough decisions.  He abdicated his signature program, health system reform, to the Congress, which is much less popular than he is and appears ready to botch it.  His massive stimulus package, passed with very little Republican support, is viewed as a boondoggle.

The Republicans are still unpopular — even with other Republicans:

Still, the Republicans are likely to pick up some low hanging fruit in the 2010 midterms by virtue of buyer’s remorse over Democrats traditional Republican districts and continued slides in Obama’s approval could exacerbate that trend.

More NPR poll graphics [PDF].

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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. Dave Schuler says:

    Since the practice of leaving the contents of legislation completely in the hands of the Congress has been followed with all of the key pieces of legislation, viz. Waxman-Markey, the stimulus plan, and healthcare reform, I think it’s fair to conclude that either it’s a preferred tactic, probably for just the reasons you’ve suggested above, or President Obama is extraordinarily weak.

    If it has been a preferred tactic, it’s backfiring so expect it to change. If President Obama is extraordinarily weak, we may be in for a bumpy ride.

  2. Furhead says:

    The numbers have been on a straight line since last summer — long before Obama was elected, much less took office.

    I think you are reading too much into that graph. It is not clear from whether there were any actual data points between last summer and March, so I’m not sure if your conclusion is conclusive. It would be highly unusual for the line to be so perfectly straight while the readings change so much.

  3. just me says:

    I pretty much agree with Dave Schuler on this one. Although I think it is more a preferred tactic than necessarily Obama being weak. I just wonder if he realizes the tactic isn’t working out so well for him at this point, and if that is the case is it maybe that the answer is he is both weak and prefers this tactic which isn’t going to be good for the US in the long run.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    Since the practice of leaving the contents of legislation completely in the hands of the Congress has been followed with all of the key pieces of legislation, viz. Waxman-Markey, the stimulus plan, and healthcare reform, I think it’s fair to conclude that either it’s a preferred tactic, probably for just the reasons you’ve suggested above, or President Obama is extraordinarily weak.

    Perhaps I’m overly fond of the separation of powers, but shouldn’t we be GLAD that a President is letting Congress to most of the heavy lifting on legislation?

  5. Ryan says:

    As I recall, one of the failings of Clinton’s approach to health care is that the administration was heavy handed and snubbed many of the key congressional players. I agree with Alex that it might not be such a bad thing to let our legislators work this through, no matter how messy it may be to watch from the sidelines. Its a good reminder that the congress is not nor should it be a rubber stamp to advance the party’s agenda

  6. shawninPhx says:

    The problem I have with these polls is that they don’t go deep enough.

    I am an Obama voter. However if you had asked me many of these questions I would have come out anti-Obama. Not because I think he’s gone too far, but because I think he has not gone far enough. There is a real difference.

    I think there are many like me (I know quite a few) who would give the President low marks on many issues. However, Republican operatives do themselves and their clients a disservice by associating that with a “He’s gone too far” message.

    There are a lot of us who think he hasn’t gone far enough. Far enough in removing himself from the Bush/Cheney policies of DADT, Health care reform, GITMO, etc.

    I’d love to see a poll that actually broke these questions down to ask WHY the individual feels the way they do.