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Posted by on Aug 18, 2011 in Economy, Politics | 4 comments

Double Dose of Politically Bad Gallup Poll News For Barack Obama

President Barack Obama has over the past two days gotten a double dose of bad polling news from Gallup: only 26% approve of the way he is handling the economy and only 11% of Americans are satisfied with national conditions.

On the economy Obama hits a new polling low:

A new low of 26% of Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, down 11 percentage points since Gallup last measured it in mid-May and well below his previous low of 35% in November 2010.

Obama earns similarly low approval for his handling of the federal budget deficit (24%) and creating jobs (29%).

The president fares relatively better on foreign policy matters, with 53% of Americans approving of his handling of terrorism and roughly 4 in 10 approving on foreign affairs and the situation in Afghanistan. Also, 41% approve of Obama on education.

Obama’s overall job approval rating in the Aug. 11-14 stand-alone Gallup poll is 41%, similar to the 39% and 41% approval ratings measured in Gallup Daily tracking over the same days.

And bad news within bad news: only Democrats back heartily back Obama at this point:

Obama earns scant support on the issues among Republicans, and does not do much better among independents. In contrast to Democrats’ majority approval of Obama on all seven issues tested, fewer than half of independents approve of the president’s handling of any of these.

He or she who loses the independents tends to lose elections. And Gallup’s bottom line?

President Obama’s approval rating has dwindled in recent weeks to the point that it is barely hugging the 40% line. Three months earlier, it approached or exceeded 50%. History will remember this period for the messy political debate in Washington over the debt ceiling, followed by distress on Wall Street and tragedy in Afghanistan. How much each of these factors is responsible for the overall decline in Obama’s approval rating is unclear. But Americans’ unhappiness with each of them is reflected in recent declines in Obama’s specific job ratings for the economy, the federal budget deficit, and various foreign policy measures, as well as in his markedly low rating for creating jobs.

On the national conditions:

Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States has fallen back to 11%, the lowest level since December 2008 and just four percentage points above the all-time low recorded in October 2008.

The Aug. 11-14 Gallup poll finds satisfaction down five points from July (16%) and nine points since June (20%). The dip is likely a response to the recent negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling and continued concern about the national economy amid a volatile stock market. The recent downing of a U.S. military helicopter in Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of 30 U.S. servicemen could also be contributing to Americans’ glum mood.

Gallup began measuring Americans’ satisfaction with national conditions in 1979. Since then, satisfaction has been lower than the current 11% in only a few measurements in the final months of 2008. The all-time low of 7% came in an Oct. 10-12, 2008, poll, conducted shortly after stock values plummeted following Congress’ passage of the TARP legislation in response to the September 2008 financial crisis.

The current figures represent the continuation of a long slump in national satisfaction, which has been below 30% since September 2009, below 40% since August 2005, and below 50% since January 2004. The historical average satisfaction rating since 1979 is 40%. The all-time high is 71% in February 1999.

Democrats are somewhat more likely to say they are satisfied (19%) with conditions in the United States today than are Republicans (9%) and independents (8%).

The implications?

Americans are unhappy with the way things are going in the United States, with recent events in Washington and on Wall Street compounding the public’s economic angst. This has taken a toll on Americans’ ratings of political leaders, with congressional approval at an all-time low and President Obama registering the lowest approval ratings of his term.

Low national satisfaction ratings make incumbent politicians vulnerable to defeat, and Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were defeated for re-election at times when Americans were largely dissatisfied with the state of the nation. Satisfaction ratings tend to be low when the economy is struggling, so economic progress over the next 15 months will be a crucial factor in determining whether Obama is elected to a second term.

This explains why (1) Obama is now a fireball of activity on the political and economic front, since it is most likely clear to his White House advisors and political gurus that the bipartisan approach he has tried to use has not succeeded and most likely won’t lead to substantive compromise — if ANY compromise, (2) there is a flurry of (most uninformed at this point) speculation about analyists about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reconsidering whether to enter, Rep. Paul Ryan considering whether to enter, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (who is in danger of serious overexposure now to all but her legion of Republican base fans) is (still) considering whether to enter.

I myself can’t understand the push for Ryan. If he ever got the Republican nomination he would get few Democratic Party votes (not all Democrats are part of the liberal base), have a challenge to win over a big chunk of independents, and would have seniors groups correctly or not going after him on Medicare.

Christie may be correct that he needs to season himself a little more — especially in light of the news that New Jersey’s credit rating has been down graded. To be sure, you can just HEAR rip-n-read-talking-pointerser Sean Hannity say, “Well, the U.S. credit rating was downgraded under Obama!” but that “he did it too” does not a stellar Presidential campaign make.

On balance? These polling numbers paint a grim portrait for Obama of where he is and where his tenure has placed him so far.

Should the Republicans be smiling?

Not necessarily, as Talking Points Memo notes:

But these grave economic numbers have not have had the effect on the Presidential race that GOP supporters would like. Instead of a crowded field of nominees that consistently outpoll the President in hypothetical matchups, there isn’t one that has shown real strength. Polls last week showed Obama besting all comers in swing states like Colorado and North Carolina. The week before that, Gallup released data that showed Obama’s approval rating moving up in crucial states over the course of 2011, not falling.

The newest narrative in the Presidential race is the emergence of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has named himself the “jobs governor” as centerpiece of his message. But Perry has one thing in his way: creating some space between how voters trust HIM on the economy and how they trust Republicans in general. A New York Times/CBS poll conducted directly after the debt deal was announced showed that despite all the pessimism, respondents still trusted President Obama more to make decisions on the economy (47 percent) than Republicans in Congress (33 percent). Perry is certainly not in that group, nor is former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney. But for either to make headway in the polls and take advantage of Americans’ economic gloom, they will have to show it.