You can now say that President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have official entered the grave political crisis zone: two new polls bring more bad news for the Democrats and one of them finds that Obama’s crucial support from independent voters is now slid to under 40 percent.
Two new polls this morning augur ill for President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats who control Congress.
The worst — from Gallup — finds that for the first time since Obama took the oath, his support among independents, a key voter segment in his decisive 2008 coalition election win, has fallen below 40%. The new tracking finds that Obama’s support among all voter segments has declined in the past year, but nowhere more than among independents.
Only 38% now support him, an 18-point drop from 52 weeks ago, when polls first began showing the nation’s rapidly-growing population of independent voters peeling off, as Obama relentlessly pushed his healthcare plan and ignored polls saying jobs and the economy were uppermost on voters’ minds.
Also out this morning, a new Harris Poll of 2,227 adults finds widespread dissatisfaction and disenchantment with leading Democrats in Washington. Only 26% have a favorable view of Vice President Joe Biden’s job performance, while nearly half (45%) have a negative view of his job.
Only one-in-five approve of the job done by California’s own Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while nearly half (49%) give her negative reviews.
The public is happy with neither political party in Congress, with 54% disapproving of the majority Democrats’ job performance and 52% dissatisfied with the minority Republicans’ work.
Taken together this shows a perfect storm for Democrats.
It is said often — particularly here at TMV — that elections are usually won by the party that captures “the center” and can peel off independent support from the other party. To be sure, a chunk of the independents have usually been dissatisfied former Republicans in recent elections, but during other years a good chunk of independents have also been dissatisfied Democrats. Independents may also include those who never belonged to a party as well.
Add to these new figures recent polls showing a whopping “enthusiasm gap” between potential voters and you can see why the Democratic Party is reportedly going to try to reactivate the coalition that brought Obama into office and helped win the majority in Congress.The problem: for many, hope is dwindling and change seems too slow or small qualitatively. Several top Democrats including Vice President Joe Biden have signaled that the party plans to remind voters which party largely got the U.S. into the current mess — but there is little evidence that this kind of comparative administrations really works when voters seek to punish or replace those who they feel are not doing a good job
And jobs is the name of the game: if the job outlook was getting demonstrably better, these numbers would probably be better. But it isn’t — and its unlikely that the numbers will demonstrably improve soon.
Gallup notes that Obama is not the only President to have low polls during midterms:
Obama is not alone in facing a challenging second year in office — Bill Clinton (43%), Ronald Reagan (42%), and Jimmy Carter (40%) all were below the majority approval level in July of their second year. Of course, each of those presidents saw his party lose a substantial number of seats in that year’s midterm congressional elections, though both Reagan and Clinton recovered in time to win a second term as president.
Gallup Daily tracking of Election 2010 voting preferences suggests a more favorable Republican than Democratic outcome this year if the elections were held today. Even so, there are still nearly four months remaining before the elections, and thus, time for the Democrats’ prospects to improve.
Numbers like this instantly reduce a President’s clout. Those running for re-election in his party feel less inclined to do his bidding and some may not want him to campaign in their districts. The opposition party, in turn, feels little reason to fear or cooperate with a President who is seemingly on the descent. As is evident in the polling histories of Reagan and Clinton, low polls didn’t always stay low. But with four months to go until the elections Democrats — and Obama — face the prospect that their clout now may be as good as it gets for a while. And that clout is greatly reduced since January 2009.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.