Obama’s Approval Numbers Sinking Fast

Another poll brings bad news for the White House.

The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has some very bad news for the White House:

Americans are more pessimistic about the state of the country and less confident in President Barack Obama’s leadership than at any point since Mr. Obama entered the White House, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

The survey also shows grave and growing concerns about the Gulf oil spill, with overwhelming majorities of adults favoring stronger regulation of the oil industry and believing that the spill will affect the nation’s economy and environment.

Sixty-two percent of adults in the survey feel the country is on the wrong track, the highest level since before the 2008 election. Just one-third think the economy will get better over the next year, a 7-point drop from a month ago and the low point of Mr. Obama’s tenure.

Amid anxiety over the nation’s course, support for Mr. Obama and other incumbents is eroding. For the first time, more people disapprove of Mr. Obama’s job performance than approve. And 57% of voters would prefer to elect a new person to Congress than re-elect their local representatives, the highest share in 18 years.

The results show “a really ugly mood and an unhappy electorate,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the Journal/NBC poll with GOP pollster Bill McInturff. “The voters, I think, are just looking for change, and that means bad news for incumbents and in particular for the Democrats.”

Mr. McInturff said voters’ feelings, typically set by June in any election year, are being hardened by frustration over the economy and the oil spill. “It would take an enormous and seismic event to change the drift of these powerful forces before November,” he said

And here are the highlights:

In the poll, Obama’s job-approval rating stands at 45 percent, which is down five points from early last month and down three points from late May.

Forty-eight percent in the current survey say they disapprove of his job performance.

What’s more, Obama’s favorable/unfavorable rating is now at 47 percent to 40 percent, down from 49 percent to 38 percent in early May and 52 percent to 35 percent in January.

His scores on other aspects of the presidency also have declined. In April 2009, 54 percent gave the president high marks for being able to handle a crisis; now it’s 40 percent.

In July 2009, 57 percent gave him high marks for being decisive and for his decision-making; now it’s 44 percent.

And also in July 2009, 61 percent gave him high marks for having strong leadership qualities; now it’s 49 percent.

And there are two issues that are dragging the President down right now. The first is the oil spill, where the poll shows that 50% of those surveyed disapprove of his handling of the crisis. The second is the economy, stupid:

[O]nly 33 percent believe the U.S. economy will get better in the next 12 months. That is a seven-point drop since May.

In addition, 62 percent say the country is headed in the wrong direction, which is its highest point in Obama’s presidency.

That last number is perhaps the more damaging than any other, even the job approval numbers. The right track/wrong track question is typically a fairly good indication of where the electorate is headed, and a high “wrong track” number is usually bad news for incumbents. After coming into office in the midst of the worst economic crisis in a generation, though, President Obama has failed to convince the public that the nation is on the right track:

Oil spill, economic stagnation, high unemployment, and a war in Afghanistan that seems to clearly be going badly. It’s no wonder the public is pessimistic. If this continues through November, I suspect we’ll be seeing more substantial Republican gains than some might be expecting.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, Economics and Business, Environment, Public Opinion Polls, The Presidency, 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. john personna says:

    It is traditional to think general unhappiness is a win for the opposing party, but the Great Recession is not a usual event:

    “Forty-five percent prefer a GOP-controlled Congress after this year’s elections, compared with 43 percent who want a Democratic-controlled Congress.”

    That seems pretty close, and we already know about the “Oil spill, economic stagnation, high unemployment, and a war in Afghanistan that seems to clearly be going badly.” They aren’t news.

    Really we could ask, if we have this 62% wrong track number, why are the parties so close?


  2. Pete says:

    Repubs are still suffering from their move left during the Bush years. The public may rally behind NEW Repubs like the ones the Tea Party is pushing. Incumbency is risky; regardless of party.

  3. Tano says:

    It is incredible to watch how the media – including prominent blogs such as this – are so wedded to this false meta-narrative – the supposedly declining Obama approval myth.

    Whenever a particular poll, such as this one, shows a decline, it is breathlessly reported as indicative of some indisputable trend. Whenever a poll comes out that shows Obama’s approval ticking upward – there is silence.

    This has been going on for months now – with the result that there have literally been thousands of articles or blog posts that either highlight, or at least make mention of Obama’s “plummeting” approval, and almost no articles or posts saying the contrary, and yet if you look at the overall trends, his approval has been almost totally flat for 5 months!!!

    RealClearPolitics, a Republican site, keeps a running average of approval polls and plots out their average. Click HERE and roll over to find the data points for late January, and see what the trend really is.

    Tbe only honest stories about O’s approval would highlight the incredible stability of his numbers given all the ups and downs of legislative and policies events.

    (same story applies to the “generic Congressional polls” – the average of which show the two parties evenly split – as they have been for quite some time, even though the meta-narrative only seems to allow stories to be written that highlight good news for Republicans.

  4. Gerry W. says:

    Well, we can look at the Bush approval numbers as he “stayed the course.” Bush only got reelected as he was at the 50/50 range of his downfall.


  5. Juneau: says:

    “…the supposedly declining Obama approval myth.”

    Whistling past the graveyard…

  6. wr says:

    Repubs and their move left. Uh-huh. Because torture and the indiscriminate murder of thousands of Iraqi citizens for no reason are liberal ideas. Next!

  7. Juneau: says:

    Because torture and the indiscriminate murder of thousands of Iraqi citizens for no reason are liberal ideas. Next!

    You’re not well, mentally, are you?

  8. Fog says:

    Yes, Juneau, please excuse wr. Watching his country adopt torture and elective war as national policy has unhinged him. After all, Jesus said, “Blessed are the warmongers, ” didn’t he?

  9. Jib says:

    I am with john personna, the repubs should be doing much better than they are. I dont think this is going to go the way people inside the bubble machine think it will.

    It is clear people want change but they are not buying what the repubs are selling. This opens up the possibility of some major shifts politically in the next few years. People hungry for change, neither party offering it. Not sure where it lands but I plan on popping some corn and enjoying the show.