President Barack Obama has now hit a major danger zone: a new CNN poll finds that more independent voters disapprove of Obama than approve of him — and his biggest failing grades are on the economy, taxes, the budget and health care:

A majority of independent voters disapprove of how Barack Obama’s handling his job as president, according to a new national poll.

Fifty-three percent of independents questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Tuesday say they disapprove of how Obama’s handling his duties in the White House, with 43 percent in approval. That result marks the first time in a CNN poll that a majority of independents give the president’s performance a thumbs-down.

Obama’s overall approval rating of 53 percent is down 3 points from a month ago, and down 8 points from June. Forty-five percent of those questioned disapprove, up 5 points from a month ago and up 8 points from June.

According to the poll, nine in 10 Democrats approve of the job Obama’s doing, up three points from a month ago, with 15 percent of Republicans approving, down 8 points.

“Obama won a majority of the vote among independents last year, and that helped put him in the White House,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Losing their support makes it more difficult for Obama to govern from the center.”

And, as we had often said here during the Bush years, it is difficult for a President who wants to be successful to be mainly a President of the base. Obama can’t afford to lose independent voters.

The question debated by partisans then becomes: who are the independent voters. Some say they are former Democrats. Others say the independent voter ranks have swollen in recent years by former GOPers who were disgusted by the Bush administration and its brand of Republicanism. And then there are partisans on both sides who consider independents wishy washy, bland people who don’t take passionate stands (wrong as several books and election results point out).

But the bottom line is that Obama needs them because as his independent voter support erodes, so does some of his clout. More from the poll:

Broken down by issues, the president still gets majority support on foreign affairs and terrorism, but a majority now disapprove of how he has handled health care, taxes, the economy and the budget deficit.

According to the poll, Obama’s approval rating on how he is handling the war in Afghanistan also fell 18 points since March.
Not good news for the White House.

But now Obama is back from vacation. Are we going to see a new burst of energy from him that will once again spark commentaries about how Obama could be the new FDR or Ronald Reagan? Or will he continue as he is now — raising fears that he could turn out to be another Jimmy Carter?

At this point, given his declining polls and increased political problems, the words “transformational President” are being used less and less about Obama. Will this trend continue — or is he about to enter into a new rebounding phase?

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • I am one of those independent voters, having never been a member of either political party. I did vote for Obama, but I think he’s made a lot of mistakes and am not surprised to see that his numbers have dropped.

  • imavettoo

    Part of this trend is that CNN has become disillusioned, not enough drama for Blitzer’s needs & xenophobic Dobbs doesn’t help matters either. Obama has slows Augusts but then so do I. Watch what September brings.

    • dunno_moire

      Imavetto – Xenophobic Dobbs? Why don’t you try working in the construction industry for ten+ years and lose your job to “The Great Recession” only to watch your illegal immigrant neighbors still going out everyday to work their construction jobs AND THEN TELL ME HOW XENOPHOBIC DOBBS IS? Can you do that for me or do you need an expert on the subject like me to tell you how it feels?The handling of the illegal immigration issue in this country is a farce. I have watched the illegal immigrant employing construction companies in my area decimate the African American owned construction companies all the while asking myself where the ‘pro-black vote’ Democratic Party has been. Have you ever talked to a Black businessman or woman that’s lost their business trying to compete against the unfair advantages provided to employers of illegal immigrants? I have. Have you ever talked to Black kids that can’t get a job because they’ve been labeled ‘lazy’ in comparison to illegal immigrants? I have. When you do that you can tell me how xenophobic Dobbs is. Please stop trying to feel better about your politics by criticizing the politics of others. We don’t need more Bourgeoisie indignation, we need results and clear minded processes. I wholeheartedly support giving the illegals ALREADY here a path to citizenship and strongly feel they’ve earned it. However I am dead set against continuing gridlock on the illegal immigrant issue – it is well past time to resolve it – BECAUSE (IMHO) IT IS HURTING THE WORKING CLASS CITIZENS THE MOST – at this point.Here’s a suggestion I’ve floated before – why don’t we fine each illegal immigrant who comes forward for amnesty/citizenship $1,000 – 5,000 each (plus back taxes) in order to apply for citizenship. Then we take the $12 Billion to $60 Billion we raise to (temporarily) cover the IMMEDIATE health insurance needs of the LEGITIMATELY uninsured CITIZENS (unemployed, etc.) for the next one or two years and we back off ramming the ‘healthcare reform’ package through Congress until we correct the economy FIRST. Makes so much sense it won’t happen – besides it would give the Democrats two less things to complain about.

      Just remember one thing – I love everyone.

      • Father_Time

        dunno…those are very liberal points of view of which I generally agree, but I couldn’t help but notice your totem and I would like to ask you one personal question if you wouldn’t mind.

        Do you chew whale blubber.

        • dunno_moire

          We chew the whole whale, nothing goes to wasteJust remember one thing – I love everywhale

          • Father_Time

            You have a great sense of efficiency. You have changed me permanently.

            I now shall chew no whale before it’s time.

  • elrod

    Andy,
    And what mistakes are those? Would love to hear specifics.

    • Elrod,

      Fair question. First, and most importantly, I think he’s mishandled the health-care issue. I think it was a mistake to delegate the legislation to Congress which put it in the hands a few very liberal politicians who control the key committees. Pushback was inevitable.

      Secondly is his handling of the economy. The estimates put out by the WH on the effects of the stimulus and other measures were completely wrong. Unemployment and other indicators are a lot worse than the what he said would be the case.

      Third is Afghanistan where he delegated strategy to his Generals. As a military man myself, the new strategy seems at odds with the limited objectives the President declared at the beginning of the year. The new strategy requires a decade-long commitment (at least) of US blood and treasure.

      Those are the three big ones IMO.

  • dunno_moire

    Elrod – What mistakes are those?Are you serious? How’s ignoring the human rights/voter fraud crisis in Iran for starters? How about focusing on just about everything BUT the economy? How about not making effective headway in nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea and Iran? How about pushing through a stimulus bill that is filled with pork and has done little if anything to help put people back to work (that last part of particular interest to me since I’ve been unemployed since last year)? How about no real gains in establishing the “Green Economy” (another interest of mine as I’ve done extensive work in the re-use/recycling/salvage/up-cycling/waste stream diversion economy on many levels – material sales to interior design installations with found item constructs to furniture/fixtures made from recovered stock)? I am a registered democrat, have been my entire adult life. I’ve also been a openly socialistic person most of my life – until I recently realized that the consequence of making my socialist pipe dreams a reality might be bankrupting this country’s economy with the possible subsequent effect of damaging the integrity of our Constitutional democracy/republic. I liked dreaming of universal healthcare and universal education when it could be worked into the system in place – without damaging or destroying it. I do not like the idea of ramming them through and consequences be damned.Just remember one thing – I love everyone.

    • dunno_moire,

      To be fair, the President (and even Bush before him) made significant overtures to Iran. The problem is that Iran, so far, has ignored them. Iran’s internal political instability probably means they will be unable to seriously engage us for the near future. The situation is similar for North Korea. North Korea decided to escalate and kill the six-party talks. The US is not unwilling to talk/negotiate with them.

  • ProfElwood

    From my area (relatively conservative, but heavily Democratic), the mistakes are pretty much the same ones that Bush made:
    Spending, spending, internal spying, war, and more spending.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Feedback is a good thing.

  • “and his biggest failing grades are on the economy, taxes, the budget and health care”

    His economic program seems to be working, he’s lowered taxes, the budget crisis he inherited and he hasn’t really pushed for a specific health care plan yet.

  • 50% is no magic number, regardless of whether it is only the “independent” voters (who studies have shown tend to be somewhat disengaged from politics) or whether it is the entire population of voters. Note the following graph:

    Since Truman, only Kennedy and Eisenhower have managed to never fall below 50%, and most Presidents have spent as much time below that mark as above.

    Anyone who has studied voting behavior will tell you that there is no correlation between being non-partisan (usually called “independent) and being non-ideological (or “moderate”). Time and again, the so-called independent voters have shown that they are as partisan as those who actually register as partisans. So the loss of support among “independent voters” is likely reflecting those who lean towards the Republican Party responding to the PR from that party.

    It is also possible that the President has lost some support among those on the left-hand side of the political scale because he is trying to govern from the middle. As it has become clear that the Republicans are not going to cut a deal, no matter how far it is moved to the right, liberals have been angered that some of these deals have even been considered. The thing is that there is no where else for them to go – no one expects the American Socialist Party to suddenly start getting converts. So they may be disenchanted, but they’ll support the President because it’s all they have.

    But, regardless, it doesn’t impact the President’s ability to govern from the middle. The biggest impediment to governing from the middle comes from the comparable strength of the Blue Dog Dems and Progressive Caucus in the House. Neither can do anything without the other, and they are miles apart. That is simply a reflection of their respective House districts.

  • casualobserver

    Barry is analogous to the high draft pick point guard brought into the long ineffectual franchise. He loves to be seen bringing the ball upcourt, but dislikes going into the paint and catching the elbows, so he simply dishes off to his hack JuCo-transfer forwards, Pelosi and Reid.

    The score (i.e., polling numbers) require him to now show if he’s got the guts to go to the glass himself as well as show himself to be capable of playing D.

    September will reveal whether Obama is a multi-dimensional player to be respected or just an overpaid showboat.

  • tidbits

    Just from my perspective. Obama has a number of admirable character traits that include his intelligence, a calm and reassuring demeanor, his ability to articulate thoughts, his love of family and a quality of openness. His principal liabilities include an absence of governing experience, a lack of necessary toughness, and a woeful absence of legislative accomplishment. In other words,he makes a great candidate, but historically hasn’t produced much once elected.

    During the campaign many swooned over the personal qualities, hardly unexpected in today’s America, and looked past the absence of substantive governmental accomplishment. Many of those voted for him. Now, those same voters are being forced to confront the effectiveness of his governing ablity.

    The record, objectively, isn’t that good. His shortcomings in legislative accomplishment are evident in his delegating key policy proposals to a Congress dominated by hard core partisans. The Executive Branch remains badly understaffed seven months into office…even Hillary is complaining about staffing shortages. He was blind sided by critics of health reform; failed to stand up to the left on the pork-filled stimulus bill; failed to stand up to Congress generally on the Continuing Resolution with its nearly 2000 earmarks, and appears to be punting on issues like the “new green economy”.

    He looks, honestly, like he is still working on the learning curve. Policy differences aside, the light resume on the governance side is beginning to show, and it is beginning to be reflected in the polls.

  • elrod

    Casual,
    That analogy is apt. He has to put up and get results this fall.

    dunno-moire,
    Let me take your responses one by one:
    1) Iranian elections – He did not “ignore” it at all. In fact, he tread quite carefully there; nearly all Iran watchers – and Iranian Americans themselves – agree that Obama’s relative hands-off approach was exactly right. In the short term Khamanei and co. cracked down hard. But nobody in highly nationalistic Iran believes that the protesters were tools of America. And for that reason, the Iranian regime has lost considerable legitimacy at home. Had Obama more forcefully intervened the Iranian people would have more unanimously backed the crack down.

    2) Focusing on everything BUT the economy? Do you remember the stimulus bill? How about “cash for clunkers?” How about the auto bailout? You can disagree with these and other measures to fix the economy, but you can’t argue that he’s been focusing on matters other than the economy.

    3) On Iran nukes – What Andy said above.

    4) The stimulus bill HAS put many people to work (sorry if you are not among them). I’m looking out my window at a major public works project under construction – a civic arts center – funded partly by ARRA. I see dozens of workers whose jobs exist because of the stimulus. Our Republican Congressman made sure this piece of “pork” was funded too. And, yes, one man’s useful, jobs-creating project is another man’s pork.

    5) No gains in the green economy? I think the cap-and-trade bill, imperfect as it is, qualifies as a pretty significant advance in the green economy. And the stimulus bill that you deride as pork included billions for weatherization and other green initiatives.

    As for Andy’s list, here’s my response:

    1) Pelosi, Reid and the liberal committee chairs are obviously not the most popular people in the world. But would the pushback really be any less if the bill was designed by Max Baucus or Mike Ross? The Republicans decided for deep ideological and political reasons to oppose anything the Democrats put forward. A truly left-wing bill would have been HR676, which calls for single-payer and has the backing of nearly 100 Congressmen. HR3200 is an attempted compromise between the various Democratic factions and, potentially, moderate Republicans.

    2) The unemployment estimates often cited as “too rosy” were theoretical scenarios advanced by Christina Romer. But even if they were wrong, that became obvious almost immediately. And the take-away was that we were in worse shape than some thought. The answer would mean MORE stimulus and intervention, not less.

    3) The Afghanistan strategy seems to be up in the air right now so I’ll hold off on commenting. I believe McChrystal is supposed to release his official recommendations today, in fact.

    None of this is to say that Obama has been mistake-free. I’m just saying that many of the political problems he faces were unavoidable given the enormity of the tasks facing the nation, and the deep ideological divisions in the electorate over how to pursue them.

    • Elrod,

      Thanks for the response. A few more points:

      1) The problem with your analysis is that the proposed bills are not even getting the support of all Democrats, much less anyone from the GOP. If one can’t get the moderate members of one’s own party on board, then it should not surprise anyone that the no one from the opposition will support it either. The reality is that the Democrats don’t need the GOP. They simply need a bill the moderates in their party will support. Independents are a lot closer in ideology to moderate Democrats than liberal Democrats. The liberal wing of the party only shoots itself in the foot when it tries to make claims about moderates being bought by insurance company interests. Most independents can see right through that. Additionally, cost control is a bigger issue for independents than is universal coverage, yet the bills under consideration have little in the way of cost control and won’t even be deficit neutral.

      Secondly, the goal is, supposedly, universal coverage. Achieving universal coverage does not require a public option. That the liberal wing of the party is so focused on the public option portion that it is, IMO, alienating many independents. A public option is not as popular with independents as liberals would like to believe.

      This is what happens when a President delegates formulation of a health-care bill to an ideological minority. That was Obama’s political mistake.

      2) You need to consider perception and expectations management. The White House simply did not meet expectations on the economy, effects of the stimulus, etc.

      I think many of his political problems were avoidable. Regardless, it’s not has if his Presidency has been crippled and there is plenty of opportunity for him to recover. The first thing he needs to do is take control of the health-care debate.

    • Dr J

      “4) The stimulus bill HAS put many people to work (sorry if you are not among them). I’m looking out my window at a major public works project under construction – a civic arts center – funded partly by ARRA. I see dozens of workers whose jobs exist because of the stimulus.”

      Not much of a claim to success, Elrod, because virtually any spending would do as much. We could simply have paid the billions to Donald “Shovel-Ready” Trump. He might have built more real estate and created construction jobs, or a fleet of yachts and created shipyard jobs. He might have put a few million in CDs, freeing the bank to loan that money out and ultimately funding jobs. Even taking 700 billion dollars into the backyard and burning it would create a few jobs for bonfire organizers.

  • DLS

    Obama needs to not only divorce himself from the lib Dems, but actually oppose them, to win the mainstream and sane public back. It’s he, not the GOP, Napoleanically making health care into Waterloo.

    * * *

    “Achieving universal coverage does not require a public option.”

    More fundamentally, reform of the existing system never has required a public option.

    It’s fallen on blind eyes (or what it says about the brains connected to those eyes), but it’s obvious.

    One of innumerable examples:

    [note final paragraph]

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c46ee230-8cf2-11de-a540-00144feabdc0.html

    And just look at who is most militantly and irrationally insistent on the public option! Issue closed.

    How bad will the reaction be among these people if (using a contemporary DC-Land phrase) the correct thing is done by Dems about not only health care but everything else, and they “press the reset button”?

  • DLS

    “Obama has a number of admirable character traits”

    He’s wasting them by aligning himself with the lib Dems, rather than wisely opposing them.

    The question then becomes, as it has now, exactly what kind of politician and person is he, really?

  • DLS

    “he simply dishes off”

    Note, too — not just work avoidance, but also blame-diverting “lightning rods”

  • DLS

    The Dems have been progressively worse. The S.S. DemCare is crashing on the rocks (steered there by the Demmies themselves).

    Now it’s time for Obama to try to save this faltering ship.

    “September will reveal whether Obama is a multi-dimensional player to be respected or just an overpaid showboat.”

    In fact, September 9 , when he addresses Congress. Go down with lib Dems and DemCare, or…?

    (though it’s a risky situation, and he may just be a showboat or figurehead again)

    (and that’s giving him and his words the benefit of the doubt beforehand)