By Dave Andrusko
As promised, I am periodically updating you on 2012, even though the presidential waters seem relatively calm, compared to a comparable stage in 2007. Before I talk about what the Washington Post concluded today, a brief reference to last Friday’s discussion.
We talked about “Obama Hype versus Gallup Reality.” I contrasted a slavishly positive story in POLITICO that painted Obama as all but impenetrable (rote qualifiers to the contrary notwithstanding) with the latest somber figures from Gallup.
We learned from what was then the latest Gallup Daily tracking three-day average that “41% of Americans approved of the job Barack Obama is doing as president,” according to Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones. “That ties his low as president, which he registered three times previously — twice in August 2010 and once in October 2010.”
Obama is faring even worse with the most sought after group of campaigns today—the Independent voter. “Obama’s approval rating in April 12-14 polling is down most among independents when compared with his 2011 average to date as well as his term average among this group,” Jones wrote. “Currently, 35% of independents approve of the president, nine points off his average from independents this year.”
The Post’s headline mirrored its anxiety and its hope. “Economic anxiety threatens Obama in 2012”—that’s the anxiety—“but in poll he edges GOP rivals”—that’s the hope.
And it is quite true that this random poll of 1,001 adults conducted April 14-17 finds Obama ahead of “seven potential GOP rivals.” What’s to say?
No incumbent who has ever run a race from dogcatcher on up would not be pleased to see polling data that shows him or her ahead of potential rivals. But no one over the age of eight could miss that what is far more significant than your potential opponents’ weakness (real and imaginary) is YOUR falling level of support among virtually every discernible subgroup of the population.
Let’s look at a few of the details. Some are really devastating.
* “In the survey, 47 percent approve of the job Obama is doing, down seven points since January. Half of all Americans disapprove of his job performance, with 37 percent saying they ‘strongly disapprove,’ nearly matching the worst level of his presidency.”
· “The toll [from economic pessimism] on Obama is direct: 57 percent disapprove of the job the president is doing dealing with the economy, tying his highest negative rating when it comes to the issue. And the president is doing a bit worse among politically important independents.”
Then after telling the reader how supposedly unsatisfactory the GOP presidential field is, Dan Balz and Jon Cohen write,
· “Despite his current advantage over the Republican field, Obama remains vulnerable with an approval rating again less than 50 percent. A majority of those younger than 40 give the president positive ratings, but most of those 40 and older disapprove.
Obama’s standing shows he has lost his post-midterm election gains.”
Then there’s more bad news from the poll for President Obama.
“It is Obama’s standing among independents that is a prime cause for concern inside the White House and Obama reelection campaign,” Balz and Cohen write. “Independents backed Obama and other Democrats in 2008, but those who voted last year went decisively for Republicans.
“Obama’s political advisers are closely monitoring independents and many of his moves in the past few months have been aimed at shoring up their support. Among independents, 55 percent disapprove of the job he is doing, near record highs. And for the first time, about as many independents have generally unfavorable (49 percent) as mostly favorable (50 percent) impressions of Obama.”
And so forth. On balance, what can we say as of mid-April, 2011?
That President Obama, politically, is in troubled waters. The public is deeply skeptically of his leadership qualities and, it should be noted, in a center-right country, an awful lot of people think Obama is more liberal than they are. The importance of this fact, consistently reported by Rasmussen Reports, should not be underestimated.
Nor should the dissatisfaction with Obama’s “signature” accomplishment: ObamaCare be forgotten.
Nor should the importance of Obama’s “Presidential Approval Index” (the figure calculated by subtracting the number who Strongly Disapprove from the number who Strongly Approve) be underplayed. Yesterday it was minus 17, meaning 21% strongly approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president while 38% strongly disapprove.
These numbers, which have been terrible for President Obama for a long, long time, are far more significant that a hypothetical matchup against a Republican 18 and ½ months out from the next presidential election.
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