Polls: Good News for Republicans, Obama

Obama Boehner A new WaPo-ABC poll shows that Americans are increasingly dissatisfied and has Republicans tied with President Obama in approval.

The survey paints a portrait of a restless and dissatisfied electorate at the beginning of a critical election year. More than seven in 10 Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, and as many say they’re inclined to look for new congressional representation as said so in 1994 and 2006, the last times that control of Congress shifted.

Asked how they would vote in the November House elections, Americans split evenly — 46 percent siding with the Democrats, 46 percent with the Republicans. As recently as four months ago, Democrats held a 51 to 39 percent advantage on this question.

Obama’s overall approval rating is holding steady, with 51 percent of respondents giving him positive marks and 46 percent rating him negatively. On the big domestic issues — the economy, health care, jobs and the federal budget deficit — bare majorities of Americans disapprove of the job he is doing.

Interestingly, this is both good news for the Republicans and for Obama.   It reinforces the expectations of big GOP gains in the November elections — even adding fuel to the “Republicans retake the majority” fire — but demonstrates how deep Obama’s personal popularity remains.  But, even for Obama, the news isn’t all good:

Changes in public attitudes were most apparent when Americans were asked whether they trust Obama or congressional Republicans to handle these issues. Last summer, the president enjoyed advantages of more than 20 points over the GOP on the handling of health care, the economy, the deficit and the threat of terrorism. Those leads have all slipped, reflecting both the partisan polarization that has colored the political landscape for many months and the sharp erosion in support for Obama among independents.

But there is about as much time between now and November as has elapsed since Obama held his June advantages. The president and his allies have started a new political offensive, seeking to rebound from the Democrats’ loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by the late Edward M. Kennedy and salvage their effort to enact comprehensive health-care reform.


When compared with the early months of Obama’s presidency, the GOP’s overall gains are striking. A year ago, Democrats held a 26-point advantage on dealing with the big issues; that lead is now six points. At the one-month mark, Obama’s lead over the Republicans on dealing with the economy was 35 points; it’s now five points.

Just for perspective, it’s worth noting that the ABC/WaPo poll is at the upper range of recent polls for Obama approval ratings.  Here’s the RealClearPolitics snapshot:

rcp-obama-approval-20100208For whatever reason, they’re also on the upper end of the Congressional approval rating (although in line with the NPR poll conducted by POS/GQR):

rcp-congress-20100208Then again, Congress is rather seldom popular.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies 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.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Congress is rather seldom popular

    They’re not elected at large.

  2. James Joyner says:

    They’re not elected at large.

    True that.