Barack Obama won the presidency by promising change that both Democrats and many independent voters could "believe in."
The latest Towery poll of the nation illustrates why his approval rating has plummeted. It also shows how far the president has to go to recover from what is starting to look like a disastrous presidency.
We asked 768 registered voters nationwide this question: "Regardless of whether you voted for or against President Barack Obama, would you say, with regard to the president's job performance to date, that . . . "
— He has performed better than expected: 26 percent
— He has performed worse than expected: 42 percent
— He has performed about as expected: 26 percent
— Undecided/No Opinion: 6 percent
The data from this telephone Interactive Voice Response (IVR) survey have been weighted for age, race, gender, and political affiliation. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percent. It was conducted the evening of June 9.
The polling firm that I head up, InsiderAdvantage, polls mostly political races. Those polls usually don't provide an opportunity to delve into the type of fun questions that explain what is behind the numbers that most polls reveal.
Towery polls allow me the freedom to keep asking fair questions of a representative sample of the nation's voting population. At the same time, these questions often reveal answers that too many in mainstream media want to discredit or ignore.
And for the critics and skeptics, know that the last InsiderAdvantage poll of the 2008 presidential general election correctly showed Obama winning closely contested critical swing states such as Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Also keep in mind that the poll results were logged before President Obama's Oval Office speech on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis.
Anyone who doubts that the president has disappointed many who voted for him or otherwise have supported him need only review the commentary by the likes of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews immediately following the speech. If the MSNBC crowd calls a Democratic president's speech ineffective, there must be plenty of dejection and disillusionment among the usually supportive fans of Obama.
Of course, it's no surprise that the poll's Republican respondents felt by nearly 60 percent that the president's overall job performance has been worse than expected. The bigger problem for Obama is that 50 percent of independent voters also rated his performance disappointing. Only 15 percent of this critical swing-vote demographic believed he has performed better than they had expected.
Remember, these are largely the voters that propelled Obama into the White House. The subtext here is simple: The president has a tall mountain to climb over the next two years if he wants to get re-elected.
The freedom of doing a survey under one's own name allows one to go beyond the poll's numerical findings. I can make educated guesses about why the results came out as they did. In this case, there's no pollster's clairvoyance required. It's pretty simple.
Most Americans are still fretting about their own economic situations. And many are seething that while their pocketbooks have been shrinking, the Obama administration has been seemingly obsessed with passing a healthcare reform bill that had lukewarm support from the nation to start with.
Now, with the nightmarish unfolding of events in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans see — or soon will — that the president plans to leverage off of the suffering of the people in these coastal states to try to gain congressional passage of a comprehensive "cap-and-trade" bill. This energy legislation is controversial and is bound to become more so.
I believe this White House is coming to be viewed by many Americans as being like a university. Theories and concepts take precedence over practicality in dealing with the day-to-day issues that shape — or misshape — people's lives.
One note of caution to those who view the president's diminishing popularity as proof that he's guaranteed to be defeated in 2012: Ronald Reagan is just one prominent example among the American presidents who looked politically doomed at the halfway point of their first terms, only to rebound in big ways.
But while Reagan's White House was ideological, it also was flexible and pragmatic when circumstances called for it. Not so President Obama, at least so far. Either he's getting bad advice not to abandon his ideological agenda — at least for the time being — or he is simply too blindly devoted to it to change course.
Based on this Towery poll, the cost he will pay if he doesn't change soon will be an ignominious return to private life in January 2013.
Matt Towery is author of the book, "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.
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