Green Room

Obama and Independents: Cracks beneath the surface

posted at 1:33 pm on July 9, 2009 by

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza says that 59 is the most important number in politics today;

That’s the percent of independent voters who approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing, according to Gallup polling conducted over the past month.

Obama’s numbers among independents are down slightly from Gallup polling in January (62 percent approve) but consistent with where he stood in March (59 percent) and April (60 percent).

As long as Obama’s job approval numbers stay in the 55 percent plus range among independents, the Administration is not likely to make any major course corrections.

However, Pres. Obama poll numbers are continuing to slip, particularly among independents, as state polls are beginning to show:

A Quinnipiac University poll of voters in economically troubled Ohio, released Tuesday, showed Obama’s approval rating slipping 8 points, to below 50 percent, from a poll two months earlier, with a plurality of 48 percent of independent voters disapproving of his job performance. A Public Policy Polling [PPP] survey in Virginia found Obama’s approval and disapproval numbers effectively tied, with independents disapproving of the president’s job performance, 52 percent to 38 percent.

“That is fairly consistent with all our polling around the country — Obama tends to be really well-liked personally, but he’s starting to lose a majority of the independents,” said Public Policy’s Dean Debnam. Democrats have “had long enough in some voters’ minds that they’re getting blame for nothing happening, and Republicans are scaring them around health care and tax increases.”

Fred Bauer (via Ed Morrissey) notes Obama’s slippage in a variety of polls from SurveyUSA, led by slides in independent support. Bauer also links to the roundup from PPP (a Democratic firm) stating that “[i]t’s been seven weeks now since we put out any poll- national or state level- that showed Barack Obama’s approval rating over 50% with independents.” In addition to the the national poll (with 49% of independents disapproving), the states include Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama and West Virginia. The erosion actually goes back further — independents were split on Obama in Colorado as far back as April.

Indeed, in April, PPP was already noting that Democratic Senators are lagging with independents.

As NRO’s Jim Geraghty tweets, “[t]he Quinnipiac poll went a long way toward changing DC’s conventional wisdom this week. Old: Obama still popular. New: Is He In Trouble?” Those looking at a Gallup poll of adults may not be asking that question… yet. But people looking at polls of likely voters in bellwether states, and states with hot elections in 2010, are asking. And probably wondering what those numbers will look like if — as widely predicted — unemployment continues to rise well into next year.

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I thought I saw a poll two weeks ago that he’d dropped 14 points and below 50 percent among Independents…?

John the Libertarian on July 9, 2009 at 1:53 PM


I’m pretty sure you’re referring to Rasmussen, which also polls likely voters.

That was the start of this conversation, but the MSM tends to distrust Rasmussen. And it was a single poll. That his results are being replicated by Quinnipiac, and even a Dem firm like PPP is what’s causing more people to take note. State polling (as opposed to national polling) is also important, given that this is how elections are ultimately conducted.

Karl on July 9, 2009 at 3:59 PM

Thanks, Karl.

And here I thought Rasmussen was by far the most accurate in presidential elections.

My evidence is only anecdotal, but Messiah seems to be dropping like a stone among Obama voters. I can’t see him riding out the Fall with these abysmal economic indicators. And Fall is only 6 short weeks away…

John the Libertarian on July 9, 2009 at 4:48 PM

Find it hard to take seriously any poll that uses the terminology ‘independent’ voters. Many, many people here in NH are registered as undeclared(indies)(I am)because the state has open primaries and, quite frankly, it’s useful to be registered as an indie. Right and lefts register this way as a common practive. When it comes to polls , they support their preference. Many , if not most of these do not swivel back and forth between Parties, though the indie term may give that impression, so any poll here that has an expectation that they will do so is most likely flawed and says little about voters here. I wonder if this is true in other states with open primaries?

jeanie on July 9, 2009 at 7:22 PM

Although I agree with some of your general questioning of the usefulness of the term, poll respondents don’t have to give the answer they give to the local registrar, either. I do think that the numbers above are useful insofar as any gullible Republicans who apporved of Obama probably do not approve of him now. Thus, the next bloc to watch are the people who ID as independent b/c they are not comfy IDing as GOP. That’s who Obama is losing now, and moving further across the spectrum as things get worse.

Karl on July 9, 2009 at 10:12 PM