Obama’s Job Approval, And Favorability, Slip On Economic Woes

The economy continues to drag the President down.

In an unusual late Friday release, the new CBS News/New York Times poll has some pretty brutal numbers for President Obama:

President Obama’s support is eroding among elements of his base, and a yearlong effort to recapture the political center has failed to attract independent voters, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, leaving him vulnerable at a moment when pessimism over the country’s direction is greater than at any other time since he took office.

The president’s effort to seize the initiative on the economy was well received by the public, and clear majorities support crucial pieces of his new job-creation program. But despite Mr. Obama’s campaign to sell the plan to Congress and voters, more than half of those questioned said they feared the economy was already in or was headed for a double-dip recession, and nearly three-quarters of Americans think the country is on the wrong track.


The poll, which was conducted after Mr. Obama’s economic address to Congress last week, contains considerable warning signs for the president. The poll found a 12-point jump since late June, to 43 percent, in the number of Americans who say the economy is getting worse. And for the first time since taking office, his disapproval rating has reached 50 percent in the Times and CBS News polls.

“I don’t disapprove of Barack Obama as a person, but as a president he has disappointed me greatly,” said Ann Sheets, 69, a Democrat from Chattanooga, Tenn., speaking in a follow-up interview. Ms. Sheets added, “I’m realistic enough to know how difficult it is and I am not against compromise, but I voted for a backbone. You have to draw some lines in the sand, and I don’t think he has done that.”

The poll found a 43 percent approval rating for Mr. Obama. It is significantly higher than Jimmy Carter, who had an approval rating of 31 percent at a similar time in his presidency, according to the Times and CBS News poll, which showed Ronald Reagan with an approval of 46 percent and the elder George Bush at 70 percent.

The president’s support has fallen to its lowest levels across parts of the diverse coalition of voters who elected him, from women to suburbanites to college graduates. And a persistent effort over the past year to reclaim his appeal to independent voters has shown few signs of bearing fruit, with 59 percent of this critical electoral group voicing their disapproval.

While Mr. Obama has not yet succeeded in winning over independent voters, who comprise the most influential piece of the electorate, neither have Republicans. The field is largely unknown to independents, and few have a favorable opinion of any of the candidates.

It’s worth taking a look at the sample that CBS and The Times are using here. 29% of the respondents identified themselves as Republican, 33% as Democrats, 32% as Independents, and 8% didn’t respond. 25% of the respondents described themselves as very or somewhat liberal, 33% as very or somewhat conservative, and 38% as moderate. 35% say they voted for Barack Obama in 2008, 29% said John McCain, and 28% said they didn’t vote. It’s worth noting, then, that this is a poll of “Adults,” not a poll of either Registered or Likely Voters. Most pollsters would say that this is a good group to be polling this far away from Election Day, but draw your own conclusions.

As for the President’s jobs plan, the numbers are divided though positive for at least some of the proposals, but respondents don’t think that Congress and the President will be able to come together to make a deal that can get through both branches:

As for Mr. Obama’s latest proposal to lower unemployment, the American Jobs Act he presented to Congress last week, the public is split. While 64 percent say they have heard about the bill, Americans are divided as to whether the plan will actually create jobs. Nearly half of Americans are at least somewhat confident that Mr. Obama’s proposals will create jobs and stimulate the economy –12 percent are very confident and 36 percent are somewhat confident. But about the same amount — 47% — are not confident his plan will do that.


However, most Americans support some of the specific individual elements included in the president’s plan. Among the policies measured in this poll, support is highest for cutting taxes for small businesses and spending money on the nation’s infrastructure, such as bridges, airports and schools. Fifty-six percent like the idea of a payroll tax cut, and 52 percent think providing money to state governments so they can avoid layoffs of public employees is a good idea.


However, Americans express considerable doubt that the two sides in Congress can come together and agree on a job creation package. Just 31 percent have at least some confidence that this will happen (only 3 percent are very confident), while 45 percent are not very confident and 22 percent are not at all confident.

On the other big issue in Washington this fall — how to lower deficit — most Americans would like to see both tax increases and spending cuts to lower the deficit, and most (56 percent) also support increasing taxes on households with incomes of $250,000 or more.

The other good news for the President, I suppose is the fact that his job approval numbers are better than those for Congress as a whole (12%) or for Congressional Democrats (28%) or Congressional Republicans (19%).  Perhaps the most surprising number for the President, though, is his Favorable/Unfavorable number, which is starting to resemble his job approval number. In the latest poll it’s 39% favorable, 42% unfavorable, 13% undecided, and 5% saying (somewhat bizarrely) that they haven’t heard enough about the President to form an opinion. Up until fairly recently, the President had benefited from the fact that his personal favorability ratings were typically much better than his job approval numbers, which suggested that turning around public opinion could be aided by the fact that people generally like him. That trend has started to change though: (chart has not been updated to include CBS/NYT numbers yet)

As Times report notes, this is the first time, in their poll at least, that the more Americans viewed the President unfavorably than viewed him favorably, a possible sign that the public was close to giving up on the Obama Presidency. Other bad news in this regard is the fact that 87% believe that the economy will either stay the same or get worse, 48% believe we’re headed for another recession, 88% say the economy is either “fairly bad” or “very bad,” and 68% say that the President has not made real progress in fixing the economic condition of the country since taking office.

Now, obviously, many of these numbers would turn around if the economy started improving. While that’s certainly possible, there seems to be little chance of that happening to any significant degree between now and the 2012 elections, even if the President’s jobs bill were to be passed in full on Monday afternoon (which is obviously not going to happen). The President’s own Office of Management and Budget said last month that it expected slow economic growth, and unemployment rates averaging 9% all the way through the end of 2012. No President other than Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 and 1940 has been re-elected when unemployment was at that height, and the political conditions of 2012 are not going to be anything like either of those elections I would submit.

Much depends on who the GOP nominates and how the General Election plays itself out a year from now, but there’s no reason at all for the White House to be confident right now.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Public Opinion Polls, 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:

    Remember Obama’s “gaffe” about ATMs?

    It seems that more and more people are getting on board with that effect:

    The Breakdown: The Ripple Effects of Unemployment

  2. Dave says:

    You write this same post once ever three days.

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    Unfortunately for the president the data suggest a resumption in economic decline well before the next election. He’s been taking really bad advice from people who seem to have rejected all their macro-economic training with predictable results. Besides, doesn’t it say something about how weak a candidate Obama is when someone like Perry, an intellectually vapid bigot from a state poisoned in the minds of the American electorate by the previous president, appears to have a real shot at defeating him?

    At this point I’m voting for Obama solely because his rival candidate will make things worse faster than Obama already is.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    In 2008 I couldn’t understand why anyone would want the job. We are never going to see the economic growth we have seen in the past again and there is nothing anyone can do about it. We have reached peak cheap oil.

  5. ponce says:

    You write this same post once ever three days.

    “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it.”
    -William James

  6. Moderate Mom says:

    You note that it was “unusual” for a late Friday release of the poll results. Isn’t bad news for an Administration always released late on a Friday?

  7. anjin-san says:

    Isn’t bad news for an Administration always released late on a Friday?

    Kind of makes one pine for the Bush era, when they would simply raise the terror threat level a notch or two.

    Or Fox’s habit of running lead stores about Natalee Holloway when Bush had a bad day.

  8. c.red says:

    He’s been taking really bad advice from people who seem to have rejected all their macro-economic training with predictable results. Besides, doesn’t it say something about how weak a candidate Obama…

    I have to disagree with this strongly. Despite a lot of misinformation and winging his policies are proving to be actually pretty good when you look at the results: Obamacare is already starting to lower healthcare costs (including medicare), expand insurance coverage and increase jobs in the industry. If we weren’t losing nearly as many public jobs (which Obama has strongly been against) as we’re gaining private jobsemployment would not look nearly as horrible. We are both more secure and more respected Internationally than we were three years ago (unless you listen to FOX.) And there is a fairly strong consensus that the original stimulus kept us from dipping into an actual depression (even if it was rushed and not as efficient as it could have been.) Not to mention a host of smaller items.

    Look at where we were a year ago; struggling, but everything was improving. Then the miderms came along and Republicans got a hand back on the wheels of government and everything is back in the crapper.

    Seems to me that many people’s problem with Obama is that he has tried not to be an imperial president a la Bush and actually respect Constitutional Roles and the “will of the people”. He also seems to expect Congress and the Supreme Court to be co-equal branches of government and work responsibly in the best interests of the citizens of the nation.

    Hopefully he has gotten over that.

  9. ponce says:

    Another interesting result from that poll:

    Should Taxes on Incomes Over $250K be Raised to Reduce the Deficit?

    Yes 56%
    No 37

  10. Moderate Mom says:


    You’d think that the percentage of people in favor of raising taxes on incomes over $250K would be much higher, since 95% of people have an income below that level. Of course, it’s always easy to be in favor of raising someone else’s taxes. It’s the NIMBY factor at work: “I want to decrease the deficit, as long as I don’t have to help pay to do it.”

  11. Moderate Mom says:


    Another thought just occurred to me. Given that it is understood that approximately 45% of people pay no federal income taxes at all, it seems that only 11% of people that actually pay federal income taxes are in favor of raising rates on the “rich”. I wonder why it’s so low.

  12. ponce says:

    You’d think that the percentage of people in favor of raising taxes on incomes over $250K would be much higher

    Perhaps this result is what you expected, MM:

    In order to try to create jobs, do you think it is probably a good idea or a bad idea to spend money on the nation’s infrastructure – such as bridges, airports, and schools?

    Good idea: 80%

    Bad idea: 16%

    62% of Republicans think it’s a good idea

  13. jan says:


    Do you have a link to that ‘spending money on the the infrastructure’ poll?

  14. ponce says:

    Do you have a link to that ‘spending money on the the infrastructure’ poll?

    It’s the poll in Doug’s original post…