One of the last polls of the year, but also one of the most fascinating. Take advantage of the holiday news lull to go through the tables with some care, not so much to see what’s on top of the biggest achievement/biggest failure lists as to see what’s on the bottom. Key caveat here: The public has a short memory, so anytime you’re polling big-picture stuff like this, whatever’s at the forefront of their mind is bound to get a boost. O-Care would have topped the list regardless, I think, but relentless coverage of the rollout over the past three months has helped give it a singular place in the public’s imagination for now. So much so, in fact, that even when you break down the achievement/failure lists by party, there’s only one issue beside ObamaCare that manages to crack double digits.
But like I say, the news here is what didn’t come close to topping the list. Poll Americans under normal circumstances about their policy concerns and the economy/unemployment inevitably leads the pack. Not here. Not even close.
Three percent on each side. Drill down to the partisan split and you find that just six percent of Dems call “stabilizing the economy” O’s greatest achievement and just two percent(!) of Republicans call the economy his biggest failure. Believe it or not, slightly more Democrats (three percent) list “unemployment” as his biggest failure than Republicans do (two percent.) Maybe that helps explain why so many people still blame Bush more than Obama for the country’s economic problems. Everyone agrees that things are better now than they were during the depths of the financial crisis, and pretty much everyone agrees that things … aren’t good. Hard for the average voter to have a strong opinion on O’s economic record as somehow legacy-defining against that backdrop.
As for O-Care, 50 percent of Republicans and 25 percent of Democrats call it his biggest failure, tops for both parties. (The only other failure to reach double digits is “not getting along with Congress/not working with Republicans, which reaches 15 percent among Democrats.) ObamaCare, predictably, is also his greatest achievement according to Dems, 39 percent of whom say so versus just eight percent of GOPers. An obvious question: What about NSA surveillance and l’affaire Snowden? That’s also been percolating in the news in December, so you’d think it’d be on the public’s mind. Nope. There’s no option that directly mentions the NSA, but “taking away our rights/overstepping constitutional powers” scores just three percent among Republicans and one percent among Democrats in the “biggest failure” list. Another issue, listed simply as “spying,” draws fewer than 0.5 percent in both parties. So, for that matter, does gun control — despite the months-long post-Newtown push, less than one half of one percent of Democrats consider it O’s signature failure. Granted, asking people to name a pol’s biggest success or disappointment isn’t exactly the same as asking them to list their policy priorities; it could be that, say, 10 percent of Democrats consider the failure of gun control to be the biggest failure of O’s term but, because they blame the NRA for it, they assign no culpability for it to Obama himself. Hard to make that same argument about the NSA, though, which answers to the president. Same goes for Benghazi, which is almost a complete afterthought here. No one expects those issues to top a list like this, but just two or three percent? Really?
By the way, his biggest success overall is … “none/nothing” at 23 percent. ObamaCare finishes a point behind.