Poll: Just 38% Think Obama Deserves To Be Re-Elected

If the 2012 election were held today, President Obama would be in serious trouble. Luckily for him, he has two years to go.

As James Joyner noted on Saturday, President Obama’s job approval rating has recently hit a new low of 42%. As if that weren’t bad enough news, though, a new Politico/GWU poll out this morning shows that even fewer respondents believe the President deserves to be re-elected:

A significant majority of voters are considering voting against President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, expressing sour views of his new health care law and deep skepticism about his ability to create jobs and grow the sluggish economy, according to the latest POLITICO / George Washington University Battleground Poll.

Only 38 percent of respondents said Obama deserves to be reelected, even though a majority of voters hold a favorable view of him on a personal level. Forty-four percent said they will vote to oust him, and 13 percent said they will consider voting for someone else.

It’s Obama’s policies that are hurting him right now. By a 13-point margin, voters are down on the health care law. In an especially troubling sign, more than half of self-identified independents — 54 percent — have an unfavorable opinion of the law, compared with just 38 percent who have a favorable opinion.

And by an 11-point margin, voters trust congressional Republicans to create jobs more than Obama. His approval rating stands at 46 percent, according to the poll of 1,000 likely voters, conducted Sept. 19 to Sept. 22.

More importantly for Republicans, though, the poll reveals an electorate that is, at the moment at least, very favorably inclined to an anti-Obama candidate:

Unlike past midterm election cycles, Republican candidates have been remarkably restrained in their angling for position for the upcoming presidential primary season. Indeed, this poll finds that with the exception of past candidates or prominent national leaders, the field of GOP candidates is largely unknown. No potential candidate other than Romney, Palin, Huckabee or Gingrich has a favorable or unfavorable rating that exceeds 15 percent. Among the best-known candidates, only Sarah Palin has a net negative image — 44 percent favorable to 49 percent unfavorable. The lack of definition to this field offers a strong opportunity for a potential GOP candidate who is relatively unknown now to emerge as a major contender for this nomination.

This nomination is certainly worth having as Barack Obama has many of the traditional signs for an endangered incumbent. A majority of voters, including a majority of Independents (53 percent) and 24 percent of conservative Democrats, disapprove of his job performance. On the soft reelection ballot, a majority of voters (57 percent) say they will either vote to replace Obama (44 percent) or will consider voting for someone else (13 percent). Only 38 percent of voter responded that Obama deserves reelection. In a matchup against the potential Republican candidate with the highest unfavorable rating (Palin), Obama achieves just 50 percent support. In a matchup against a potential Republican candidate with a low awareness amongst voters (Daniels), Obama receives just 47 percent support while Daniels receives support (41 percent) that exceeds his favorable rating by a 5-to-1 margin. Even in this early stage, more than one-third (35 percent) of the electorate and seventy percent of Republicans select the GOP candidate on both of these ballots.

Of course, the good news for the President is that the Presidential Election won’t be held for another two years so there is plenty of time for the public’s perception of his performance to turn around, and for the Republicans in Congress to screw up in one way or another (which, inevitably, they will).

The one thing these numbers will influence, however, is the race for the 2012 GOP nomination itself. The more vulnerable the President looks, the more Republican politicos we’re likely to see entering the race for the nomination. Some of them will be serious bids for the big chair. Others will be geared more toward positioning a candidate for the Vice-Presidential nomination, or a cabinet position. We already know the big names likely to enter the race — Romney, Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich. Just behind them, though, is a fairly deep bench of potential “B-List” candidates — Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, John Thune, Haley Barbour, Gary Johnson — any one of whom could end up being a breakthrough candidate if they position themselves right. However, the playing field ends up in August 2012 after the Republican National Convention, Republicans will not be able to tell themselves that they didn’t have a choice. They just need to make sure they make the right one this time.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, 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. Boyd says:

    …Republicans will not be able to tell themselves that they didn’t have a choice. They just need to make sure they make the right one this time.

    This seems to imply that you feel Republicans missed the correct choice for nominee in 2008, Doug. Is that what you believe, and if so, who was that correct choice that would have defeated Barack Obama?

  2. I’m not sure anyone could have defeated Obama in 2008, even before the economic downturn, but McCain was surely not the man to do it if it was possible.

    And the idea of John McCain as President didn’t make me any happier than the idea Barack Obama as President.

  3. Boyd says:

    That would seem to imply there were no “right” choices for Republicans then, only “wrong” ones. And that’s a point I have to heartily agree on.

  4. Well, the GOP was so royally screwed up by 2008 (and still is in some ways I’d argue) that it probably would’ve been impossible for the “right” choice to even make it through the first primary……

    The GOP has this historical habit of nominating the heir apparent that goes all the way back to 1960, and in 2008 McCain was the heir apparent. Sometimes it works out (Reagan in 1980 was the heir apparent after having near beat Ford in 1976), but more often than not it doesn’t

    This time around the “heir apparent” would be Romney. Which would be a disaster

  5. Tano says:

    Interesting that Politico, in addition to its main story about this poll, offers links to the actual poll results, and to two articles of pure spin – the Democratic take on the numbers and the Republican take on the numbers.

    Interesting also, that you quote from the Republican analysis.

    What is your overall analysis of these numbers? I am sure you have read the PDF there, no? There are lots of good numbers for Obama as well as some problems.

    And the sample is skewed several points in the GOP direction (e.g. repondants report voting for Obama by 3 points in ’08, when he won by 7). And the Dem/GOP split in the sample is nearly 50-50.

    Grain of salt….

  6. john personna says:

    Do we ever vote for people who deserve it? 😉

  7. john personna says:

    This might explain some of the emptiness in right vs. left arguments:

    The Left Right Paradigm is Over: Its You vs. Corporations

    … with the hard right as foot-soldiers for their corporate masters, and the hard-left still perceived as an anti-corporate fringe.

  8. mannning says:

    The hard left is really perceived as millions upon millions of Alan Colmes and wife, or female counterpart, able at a moment’s notice to excuse literally any behavior or opinion whatsoever on the left as perfectly rational, and any behavior or opinion on the right as utterly rediculous, stupid, and totalitarian. It is a gift that keeps on annoying.