The headline from the Wall Street Journal is "Obama's Poll Numbers Are Falling to Earth." Bloomberg has it as "Obama’s Approval Rating Slips With Economy in Polls." Eek! Mr. Popular is becoming Mr. Unpopular. Clearly, the Obama presidency is doomed.
But other sources put things another way. Pollster Gallup tells us "Obama's Approval Equal To or Better Than Bush's, Clinton's," while online news source Raw Story says, "President Obama's approval rating slips -- to double Bush's." Turns out that Obama isn't so doomed. In fact, he's doing OK.
According to Gallup, at this point in his presidency, Bill Clinton scored a 53% approval rating. George W. Bush sat at 58% in March of 2001. Barack Obama has a 61% approval rating. Raw Story's piece compares Obama's approvals now to Bush's on leaving office.
In a March 12-15 poll conducted by Opinion Research Corp. for CNN, Obama’s approval rating declined to 64 percent from 76 percent in February. His disapproval rating edged up to 34 percent from 23 percent.
Bush's last approval rating by Opinion Research was 31 percent -- less than half Obama's; his disapproval rating was 68 percent. Bush scored lowest in his last week in a Pew Research poll, with just 24 percent of Americans saying they approved of his work on the job.
Different polls, sure, but similar findings; Obama has gone from an insanely popular president to a really popular president. I guess you could say this was a problem. But I'd argue that when most people like you, most people like you -- you don't really find yourself in trouble until most people don't like you. Or, at least, until approvals and disapprovals are in the neighborhood of being evenly split. As it is, Obama's approvals are higher than the percentage who voted for him. That seems pretty decent to me.
That WSJ article about Obama's polling numbers falling? That was co-authored by pollster Scott Rasmussen with Douglas Schoen. It pays to point out that Rasmussen's numbers are way below everyone else's -- a 56% approval rating for the president. I suppose it's appropriate that their prophecy of doom is more dire than everyone else's as well.
It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama's high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration. Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced.
Throughout the piece, there isn't much mention of Republicans. But the numbers for the GOP are much, much worse than Obama's. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell scores an anemic 29% and his House counterpart, John Boehner, is viewed favorably by only 26%.
Worse, GOP slippage has been astonishing. In a Pew poll, approval of Republican leadership among Republicans has fallen 12% since March -- from 55% to 43%.
Wait, who's supposed to be in big trouble here?
"Why is this happening?" asks journalist/blogger Greg Sargent. "Is it general lack of morale among Republicans? Is it that GOP voters are frustrated that their leaders haven’t succeeded in blocking Obama’s agenda? Or could it be that the Dem strategy of using Rush Limbaugh to drive a wedge between die-hard partisan Republicans and those who want to see Obama succeed is working? Something is turning Republicans against their own leadership -- in big numbers."
Given the drastic turn the numbers have taken, it seems pretty safe to answer Sargent's questions with "Yes, yes, and yes." It's hard to imagine Republican morale being extremely high, Obama seems to be rolling right along with his "socialist agenda," and Rush Limbaugh must be a tremendous embarrassment to moderate Republicans.
But the big news is that Obama's in big trouble, because his polling numbers at this point in his presidency are higher than those of the previous two. This is a big problem for 44 because... wait, why is that again?
Because it's a more compelling story, I guess. Everyone knows Republicans are screwed. It's not exactly "man bites dog." But when Republican support among Republican voters drops 12 points in a month, you'd think that'd be worth a mention or two someplace. The GOP would kill to have Obama's "problem."
It's tempting to say there's some sort of media bias here -- and normally, I would -- but the lack of newsworthiness in the Republican decline may reflect their irrelevance. Pew's study shows a party seen as rudderless.
[N]o single Republican figure, either in Congress or elsewhere, has emerged as the party’s leader. When asked who they think of as the leader of the Republican Party, 73% either say they do not know (58%), or volunteer that there is no leader (15%). John McCain is mentioned most frequently, but just 11% name the Arizona senator as leader of the Republican Party.
At this point, the term "political party" might be overstating the case a little bit. Republicans are still completely lost, trying to find some sort of center to rally around. While they like to portray themselves as independent types, Republicans are basically followers; a bunch of rugged individualists who -- entirely coincidentally -- mostly believe and say exactly the same things. Without leadership, they're completely lost.
If Obama's numbers are "falling to Earth," Republican numbers are mining deep into it. It's hard to believe they'll find anything helpful down there any time soon.
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