Tags: obama | pew | poll

Obama: Most Polarizing President Ever

Monday, 06 Apr 2009 07:47 PM

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In his first two months in office, President Barack Obama has succeeded in widening the political gulf among Americans more than any other president in modern history, according to a new poll. The "partisan gap" between Republicans and Democrats is 10 points larger than it was under George W. Bush.

The gulf – between Democrats and Republicans who say President Obama is succeeding – is also showing signs of further widening, according to a new Pew Research poll.

The poll indicates that 88 percent of Democrats approve of the president's job performance, while just 27 percent of Republicans say the same thing – a 61-point difference.

By comparison, the gap for President George W. Bush at a similar point in his administration was 51 points. It was 45 for Bill Clinton, 38 for George H. W. Bush, and 46 for Ronald Reagan.

The Pew Research Center poll – a survey of polls six weeks into the Obama era – concluded that despite the frequent calls for bipartisanship, U.S. politics is more polarized than at any equivalent point in the past four decades.

"There is no single answer as to why this is happening," Michael Dimock, the associate director at Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, and the author of this study, told Digital Journal.com. "This polarization is part of a long-term pattern. You see increasing polarization with Reagan and then with Bush and now with Obama.

"One argument is that it is the environment that Obama inherited," Dimock said. "The counter-argument is that people came into this presidency optimistic that he would be bipartisan. However, the polarization that we are seeing with Obama is occurring on both sides. It is not just a Republican issue. Democrats support him uniformly - more than they did under Clinton."

The irony is that Obama has made it a central pillar of his presidency to try and heal what was often described at the bitter partisanship of the last three decades. In the final days of the election campaign, he rebuffed Republican claims to represent the "real America" by saying, "There is no city or town that is more pro-America than anywhere else; we are one nation, all of us proud, all of us patriots."

But his strong Democratic support seems to be due to the overwhelmingly liberal Democratic issues that Obama supports in a much more aggressive manner than Bill Clinton did, Dimock said. And that hurts him even more with conservative and moderate Republicans.

"He has taken on an ambitious agenda," Dimock said. "His policies cleave along partisan lines - they are right down the center. Obama's approval results are based on the decisions he has chosen to make."

The Pew findings suggest that, at least up to now, he has been unable to turn back an historic trend in American politics and society, FoxNews.com pointed out. Over the past 40 years the country has grown steadily more polarized.

Richard Nixon at the start of his first term in 1969 had a partisan gap of only 29 percent, and Jimmy Carter in 1977 of only 25 percent. Since then the gulf has widened with every new presidency other than the elder George Bush who succeeded in reducing the gap after Reagan to 38 percent.

"Thirty years ago people on the losing side of an election tended to give new presidents the benefit of the doubt early on, but that seems to have gone," said Dimock.

The explanation for Obama's failure to reintroduce a bipartisan note is in itself polarized, Dimock added.

"Some would argue that he inherited this problem - a nation where divisions were raw and the country divided, despite his best efforts,” he told reporters. “Others will follow the 'he brought it on himself' school of thought, pointing to his ambitious agenda that was always going to ruffle feathers."

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