Across nearly every voter demographic and policy area, President Barack Obama’s poll numbers are plunging at a rate that could prove catastrophic to Democrats’ hopes in the midterm elections, according to experts.
Although it’s typical for a sitting president to lose seats during his first midterm elections, Obama’s falling numbers are particularly troublesome because his major legislative achievements seems to be accelerating the trend, several leading pollsters say.
Obama’s drop in approval in his first 12 months, from the mid-60s to the low 50s — or less in some polls — is among the sharpest ever recorded for a newly elected president over his first year.
More importantly for Republicans, recent polls show voters no longer are blaming the bad times on his predecessor.
“Despite his legislative successes, Americans have been turning on Obama,” the Canadian magazine Maclean’s wrote this week. “Now, 18 months after his inauguration, fewer than half of Americans approve of his job performance, and he is almost as acidly unpopular among Republican voters as former President George W. Bush was with Democrats in his second term.
“Most importantly, Obama has lost the crucial independent voters whose support helped propel him into the White House — slightly more than half disapprove of his job performance.”
On Wednesday, veteran Democratic pollsters Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “rather than being a unifier, Mr. Obama has divided America on the basis of race, class and partisanship. Moreover, his cynical approach to governance has encouraged his allies to pursue a similar strategy of racially divisive politics on his behalf.”
Support for Obama has eroded among whites, independents, men, and most recently, Hispanics, who were part of the coalition that powered him to the White House in 2008.
Some recent findings:
- An AP-Univision poll this week found that 57 percent of Hispanics still approve of Obama, but it revealed deep skepticism among the key Democratic voting bloc. Only 43 percent of Hispanics said Obama is meeting their needs, according to the poll, while 32 percent were unsure and 21 percent said he has done a poor job.
- A Reuters-Ipsos poll found that an overwhelming majority of Americans — 67 percent — do not think Obama has focused enough on creating jobs, compared with the administration's emphasis on overhauling healthcare and rewriting the nation's financial rules. Overall, only 34 percent approved of the president's handling of the economy and jobs, while 46 percent rejected it as unsatisfactory.
- A CBS News poll this month found just 31 percent said the war in Afghanistan was going "very well" or "somewhat well," while 41 percent said the war was going "somewhat badly" and another 21 percent said it was going "very badly."
- A Zogby Interactive poll found no discernible bounce from passage of the financial overhaul bill setting up a new bureaucracy that will ostensibly better protect consumers. Obama's approval rating among likely voters gained 1 point, up to 46 percent, while Republicans gained one point in their advantage over Democrats in voter party preference in the upcoming November Congressional elections.
- In that same Zogby poll, Obama also took a hit among African-Americans, the result of the administration’s inept handling of the storm over comments USDA official Shirley Sherrod made that were miscast as biased against whites. After the comments were found to have been misinterpreted, the administration tried to rehire Sherrod.
Explaining his findings, pollster John Zogby said: "Our polling implies that what could have been a very good week for President Obama and the Democrats was neutralized by its handling of the Shirley Sherrod situation.
"Both the president and his party gained support from independents, probably because they passed two popular measures, financial reform and an extension of unemployment benefits. However, the drop in support among African-Americans for both Obama and Democrats surely appears to be caused by the premature dismissal of Sherrod. Democrats cannot afford to lose these voters in November, so Obama had better make restoring their confidence in him a priority."
Other polls show Republican voters consistently more enthusiastic about voting this fall, as Democrats struggle to preserve their majorities in the House and Senate.
A recent analysis in The Wall Street Journal of a year's worth of Quinnipiac University poll data showed that large numbers of whites, men, and independents have deserted Obama since his election. His support among whites slid from 51 percent in July 2009 to 37 percent in July 2010, from 52 percent to 38 percent among independents, and from 54 percent to 39 percent among male voters overall.
Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute, told The Washington Times that the loss in support among these key groups is problematic for Obama but not surprising, given the drop in his overall approval ratings from 57 percent a year ago to their lowest levels now at 44 percent, according to Quinnipiac.
"A year ago, if you had told me that his overall numbers were what they are, I would have suggested the places he'd lose support first would be independents, men, and whites. This isn't rocket science," Brown said. "This is just what happens to a Democratic president when his numbers come down overall."
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