Obama’s Approval Under 50 Percent

Barack Obama’s approval ratings are now firmly below 50 percent, with the CBS poll as the latest data point:

obama-approval-cbs-20100111

President Obama’s job approval rating has fallen to 46 percent, according to a new CBS News poll.

That rating is Mr. Obama’s lowest yet in CBS News polling, and the poll marks the first time his approval rating has fallen below the 50 percent mark. Forty-one percent now say they disapprove of Mr. Obama’s performance as president.

In last month’s CBS News poll, 50 percent of Americans approved of how the president was handling his job, while thirty-nine percent disapproved.

RealClearPolitics actually has the average slightly higher than that, but it includes a CNN poll from weeks ago:

obama-approval-rcp20100111In a sidebar titled “The Irony Behind Obama’s Poll Numbers, ” CBS’s Charles Cooper observes,

For an administration that swept into Washington with high hopes – don’t they all? – the results are a rebuke to a political leader who championed the slogan, “change we need.” The irony is that President Obama’s job approval ratings have suffered even as he has tried to push through an ambitious agenda in Congress to force the very change he promised. If you interpret the numbers as an interim report card, this isn’t one to trumpet.

Let’s put in another way: The public is handing out the lowest grades of Mr. Obama’s presidency for the way he’s handled his his two biggest policy challenges – the economy and health care reform. Only 41% of the public still says that it approves of the way the president is handling the economy. Meanwhile, 82% describe the economy as being in bad condition. What’s more, just 36% support the way he has handled health care reform while 54% disapprove.

The one consolation for Mr. Obama: 31% of the public thinks the economy is getter better, compared to 5% who thought things were improving last February.

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, the plunge in Mr. Obama’s approval ratings now seems as if it were preordained. Unlike most other first-year presidents, Mr. Obama assumed office with the economy in its worst trough since the 1930s Depression. He quickly spent much of his political capital moving on an ambitious domestic agenda, but just as quickly ran into a wall of opposition over the $787 billion stimulus bill. The GOP dunned the new administration for being profligate and warned that the president was saddling future generations with trillions of dollars in debts. Mr. Obama’s economic team argued that the government had little choice but to move dramatically to help kick-start the nation’s economic engine and fill the vacuum left by the private sector.

It’s also worth noting that poor performance ratings are neither unusual nor unrecoverable.  If you look at historical Gallup polls, you’ll see that Ronald Reagan was under 50% mark by this time in his presidency — for similar reasons — and Bill Clinton was there only 4 months into his administration.  Both were easily re-elected.  For that matter, George H.W. Bush didn’t fall below the 50% mark until his 36th month in office and he was defeated in his bid for a second term.  If you’re going to be unpopular, it’s best to do it early.  And, of course, to have the economy in full recovery by early in the year you’re up for election.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
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. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Scientifically, Dr. please explain how spending money you do not have is supposed to lead to recovery? You forgot to mention Reagan reduced taxes which engaged the private sector to create jobs. Obama’s Marxist philosophy will not allow him to aid a capitalist tool.

  2. Triumph says:

    If you’re going to be unpopular, it’s best to do it early.

    Obama’s problem, of course, is that he was never as popular as he thinks he is.

    The election was conducted under suspicious circumstances–if it weren’t for Acorn, Obama would be back in Chi-town shoveling snow.

    Americans are also beginning to see that he was not born here and that he has a plan to sell our sovereignty to the UN and his cousin, the Kenyan dictator Adewale Ogunleye.

    We are beginning to wake up to the fact that we have been invaded by the Grand Liberal.

  3. Rick DeMent says:

    Scientifically, Dr. please explain how spending money you do not have is supposed to lead to recovery?

    Same way cutting taxes is suppose to. Remember that cutting taxes is spending money, unless of course you cut spending in an amount equal to the tax cut and the current account deficit, which no one has ever done, not Reagen, Bush or anyone.

    You forgot to mention Reagan reduced taxes which engaged the private sector to create jobs.

    And then raised then several times and also got rid of a number of middle class tax deductions which by tea Party calculus is a tax increase.

    Obama’s Marxist philosophy will not allow him to aid a capitalist tool.

    WTF? I have a hard time figuring out if ZR3 is serious or if he’s just a better at it then Triumph.

  4. anjin-san says:

    please explain how spending money you do not have is supposed to lead to recovery?

    Well, GM seems to be coming back from the dead. And without TARP, our banking system probably would have collapsed, and the problems today would seem like a tea party in comparison.

  5. yetanotherjohn says:

    Obama’s main problems are inexperience and being a hard left liberal which is at odds with the majority of the country.
    The press gave him a pass on his lack of experience and did not question his moderate rhetoric.
    Even so, the country was warned about his lack of experience and his being a liberal. We now pay the price for failing to heed the warnings.

  6. rodney dill says:

    If you’re going to be unpopular, it’s best to do it early.

    True, Obumbles bounce

  7. anjin-san says:

    Obama’s main problems are inexperience and being a hard left liberal which is at odds with the majority of the country

    Well, Bush 41 was probably more prepared to be President than anyone in history. All that experience did not make him a succesful President.

    As for “hard left liberal”, well, you obviously have been told what you think, so you might as well stick with it. Thinking for oneself can be so hard…

  8. Pete says:
  9. Pete says:

    Anjin-san, you might also check this out: http://www.doczero.org/2010/01/the-carnivorous-government/

    A not unreasonable summation of what is going on.

  10. Wayne says:

    Re “cutting taxes is spending money”

    Sounds like a liberal. Cutting taxes is taking a lesser percent of other people’s money not spending it. Yes it can increase the deficit but often it decreases it because it stimulates the economy and the government ends up with more revenues. There is a limit to this effect but we are nowhere close to it.

    Spending money is just that spending money. It is asinine to say if I don’t by a house, business, or investment that I am spending money. I may be wasting a opportunity to make a profit but that is not the same as claiming I’m spending money.

    Only a liberal thinker would think that if someone doesn’t take another $1,000 from you that it is the same as giving a $1,000 to you.

  11. odograph says:

    Considering that the broader measure of unemployment (U6) is at 17.3%, and 35 million people are on food stamps, it is a remarkably strong showing.

  12. odograph says:

    heh, I guess this computer has old cookies too

  13. Drew says:

    Welly, well, well…….”John Personna,” chocolate chip, Oreos, Snickerdoodle??

  14. Drew says:

    Perhaps a difference between Obama, Reagan and Clinton is that Clinton straightened up and flew “right,” and Reagan’s economy recovered.

    For Obama, I suspect the moderates realize they were sold a pig in a poke, and, further, I doubt Obama will benefit from either of the factors that assited Clinton and Reagan.

    For the sake of millions of Americans I hope I am wrong about the economy; as for staying left, Obama is who he is.

  15. Drew says:

    OFF TOPIC………..but, Copycat alert, James??

    The PowerLine guys today have inserted a Jimmy Hendrix performance of Little Wing ala Dodd’s stuff. A one time event?

    BTW – I far prefer Stevie Ray’s treatment, it being more subtle and finessed as is worthy of this ballad. But I digress……..

  16. An Interested Party says:

    Obama’s main problems are…being a hard left liberal which is at odds with the majority of the country.

    Oh yes, that must be why he is fully closing Gitmo, either trying in a criminal court or releasing all of the detainees there, pushing for socialized single-payer universal health care, charging Bush Administration officials with war crimes, and raising top tax rates to 90%…oh wait, he’s not doing any of those things…yeah, some “hard left liberal” he is…

    For Obama, I suspect the moderates realize they were sold a pig in a poke, and, further, I doubt Obama will benefit from either of the factors that assited [sic] Clinton and Reagan.

    Keep hoping, baby, keep hoping…

  17. sam says:

    BTW – I far prefer Stevie Ray’s treatment, it being more subtle and finessed as is worthy of this ballad.

    Holy Shit! Drewbie and I agree on sumthin. Now if he was only right about all t’other stuff. 🙂

  18. yetanotherjohn says:

    anjin san
    Can you point to a more liberal president we have had? What percentage of the economy is Obama wanting to put under dc control? Obama has incresed the debt more in one year than W. in 6. The fact that he lied to the liberals about how he wasn’t going to continue some of W’s security policies shouldn’t have been a surprise given that he continues those that give him more power.
    Is he as hard left as Lenin? no. But then that’s not really part of the scale in this country.
    Just keep telling yourself that you are getting what you expected. It is easier than admiting you are part of the problem.

  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    I don’t find these numbers at all upsetting. I suppose I should, but I suspect they’re hollow.

    There is still an enormous reservoir of affection for Obama, and genuine hope that he will succeed. His policies are moderate and in line with the bulk of the public.

    I think this is what comes of hard times and hard tasks. No one’s happy and that shows up in the numbers. Hell, I’m not happy, and yet I have an Obama ’12 sticker on my car.

    I’d bet this is pretty close to being the ebb. The economy will pick up, (it always does, whoever’s in the WH) and people will start to realize we’re through the worst of it. There’s nothing better than realizing the bullet missed you.

    And there’s another very important factor: there’s no one else. The GOP has no leader — normal enough — but it also has no narrative. It’s a contest between someone and no one, between something and nothing. Teabaggers may be nihilists, but the American people are not. We are the cockeyed optimists of homo sapiens.

  20. Drew says:

    I’ve always said, Sam…….you’re a great ‘A-Mair-Cun……..

    On a macabre note. I was at the SRV / Clapton concert after which his helicopter smashed into the hillside. You’d have to see the Wisconsin terrain to understand what happened. But we got up the next day, and my wife looked the paper and said to me, “you’re not going to believe this…..”

  21. Rick DeMent says:

    Cutting taxes is taking a lesser percent of other people’s money not spending it.

    Something that the Republicans have never done.

    Yes it can increase the deficit but often it decreases it because it stimulates the economy and the government ends up with more revenues.

    That has never happened ever, you cut taxes and revenues shrink relative to the levels that would have been collected otherwise. There is just too much wrong with this statement to even begin to address it, so I’ll leave it there.

    Can you point to a more liberal president we have had?

    god Yes … Nixon, he had there entire economy under direct government control for 90 days and instituted a slew of leftist economic policies. Not even in Obama’s league.

  22. sam says:

    Can you point to a more liberal president we have had?

    god Yes … Nixon, he had there entire economy under direct government control for 90 days and instituted a slew of leftist economic policies. Not even in Obama’s league.

    Bingo! For the rundown, see this by that renowned leftist, Steve Hayward: Nixon Reconsidered.

    A taste:

    [Lyndon] Johnson has gone down in the history books as the big spender for social welfare programs, yet federal spending grew faster during Nixon’s tenure than during Johnson’s. It was under Nixon that social spending came to exceed defense spending for the first time. Social spending soared from $55 billion in 1970 (Nixon’s first budget) to $132 billion in 1975, from 28 percent of the federal budget when LBJ left office to 40 percent of the budget by the time Nixon left in 1974. While Nixon would criticize and attempt to reform welfare, he nonetheless approved massive increases in funding for other Great Society programs such as the Model Cities program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Some of the changes in spending policies that Nixon supported, such as automatic cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients and other entitlement programs, contributed to runaway spending trends in successive decades. Federal spending for the arts, which went mostly to cultural elites who hated Nixon, quadrupled….

    The explosion in spending was matched by an equally dramatic explosion in federal regulation-from an administration that regarded itself as pro-business. The number of pages in the Federal Register (the roster of federal rules and regulations) grew only 19 percent under Johnson, but a staggering 121 percent under Nixon. In civil rights, Nixon expanded the regime of “affirmative action” racial quotas and set-asides far beyond what Johnson had done. In other words, Nixon consolidated the administrative state of the Great Society in much the same way that President Eisenhower (for whom Nixon served as Vice President) consolidated the New Deal. Ronald Reagan would run and govern as much against the legacy of Nixon as he would the legacy of the Great Society, and it was a number of Nixon’s administrative creations that would cause Reagan the most difficulty during his White House years.

    And let’s not overlook this:

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or sometimes USEPA) is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged to protect human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress. The EPA was proposed by President Richard Nixon and began operation on December 2, 1970, when its establishment was passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Nixon, and has since been chiefly responsible for the environmental policy of the United States.

    I’ll just put ignorance of all this down to the callowness of youth.

  23. democratsarefascists says:

    Under Bush, we were told any President who doesn’t have at least 50 percent of the American people on his side should resign.

  24. Wayne says:

    Rick
    I generally avoid getting personal but get off the drugs. Claiming Republicans have never cut taxes, talking about being out of touch with reality. Hell even the Dems have cut taxes before.

    Then you claim that revenues have never gone up after a tax reduction. Take a history class or economic class. What are you smoking?

  25. sam says:

    Wayne:

    Rick can defend himself, but I think you’re misreading him. As I understand him, he was saying that Republicans have never cut taxes and cut spending so as to reduce the deficit. Do you have evidence that this is false (during the last 30 years, anyway)?

  26. Rick DeMent says:

    Wayne,
    Sam is correct, why is it when someone like you can’t read I get accused of being on drugs? Here is the salient passage:

    Same way cutting taxes is suppose to. Remember that cutting taxes is spending money, unless of course you cut spending in an amount equal to the tax cut and the current account deficit, which no one has ever done, not Reagen, Bush or anyone.

    Borrowing money and redistributing it pretending it’s a “tax cut” is not cutting taxes, it’s doing exactly what the tea baggers claim Obama is doing; “SPENDING MONEY”

    Obama’s stimulus was 40% tax cuts BTW.

  27. Wayne says:

    Rick to repeat what you post
    “Cutting taxes is taking a lesser percent of other people’s money not spending it
    Something that the Republicans have never done”

    Perhaps you misread it and\or taken it out of context from the thread but it sounds like you are claiming Reps never cut taxes. You are the one that considers tax cuts as “spending”. I am saying it is not.

    It sounds like you are confused in basic economic principles. The government spends money and it pays for it by revenues, borrowing or printing money. Cutting revenues or borrowing is not the same thing as spending money. Paying back loans yes but not the actual barrowing.

    According to your logic if I didn’t take out a $10,000 loan last month, I spent $10,000 on not borrowing. Likewise if I quit my $10,000 side job then I spent $10,000 on my side job. Never mind that doing that can result in $15,000 increase from another source. Granted it may influence my budget but it is not spending.

    We shouldn’t be borrowing, printing money or raising taxes to pay for the increase in spending. What does that leave us? Cutting spending perhaps.

    Yeah right, it was Obama and the Dems pushing for those tax cuts in the stimulus package and not the Reps.

  28. Wayne says:

    Just to add on another comparison, decreasing tax % concept can be similar to cutting prices on a product. Yes you make a smaller percentage of profit per item but if it results in a large enough increase in business, you end up making more profits. Raise the prices to high and you can ruin your business. Same with tax cuts. If it results in a large enough increase in the economy, the government takes in more overall revenue and that has happen.

    Maybe I have misread Rick’s intentions but he can clarify it by stating that the Reps have cut taxes and that doing so can increase the government overall revenues.

  29. Rick DeMent says:

    Wyane,

    Maybe I have misread Rick’s intentions but he can clarify it by stating that the Reps have cut taxes and that doing so can increase the government overall revenues.

    No it crap you cannot cut taxes and all other things being equal bring in more revenue. it cannot happen. Other wise you could say make a case that Clinton’s tax increases (or Reagen’s for that matter)”caused” the boom of the 90’s.

    “Cutting taxes is taking a lesser percent of other people’s money not spending itSomething that the Republicans have never done”

    The Republicans have never done this. They cut the % of money they take from people and spend more then they did before. If the republicans cut taxes and also cut spending by the amount of the current deficits and the amount of the tax cuts then you would be right. But they have never ever done this.

    and cutting taxes never ever increases revenues … ever. At best revenues might be somewhat higher then the amount cut but revenues will still fall compared to the levels they would have been if the cut had not taken place. This is a myth that people who don’t really understand what they are talking about spout all the time and it’s non-sense. You are the one who is confused.

    It’s spending if you borrow money and then distribute it period … full stop. Just because your method of redistribution is based on the tax code means nothing despite your tortured logic.

    look i under stand you have had your nose deep in supply side nonsense but even Steve Verdon doesn’t buy this, and he will buy almost anything.

  30. Wayne says:

    Rick
    Sam tried to bail you out but you couldn’t help yourself. I will stand by my above post.

  31. Rick DeMent says:

    Wayne,
    And I pretty much repeated what Sam said. You have no evidence that Republicans have ever cunt taxes and reduced spending by the amount of the current deficits and the amount of the tax cut. You have no answer to the FACT that Reagen Bush I and Clinton all raised taxes and we had an economic boom in the 90’s. And you also seem to believe the myth that tax cuts somehow “pay” for themselves which is a myth. Your the one confused.and you above post is a cesspool of fallacy and tortured logic.

    Have a nice day.