Barack Obama has suffered a 36-point drop in the gap between approval and disapproval since Inauguration Day in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll of adults. He started at 64/25, but limps into Christmas with 49/46, within the margin of error. In fact, Obama fared worse than any other President in the history of the survey:
When he was inaugurated in January, Obama scored a job rating of 64% approve-25% disapprove in the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll — a net positive rating by a formidable 39 percentage points.
As the year comes to a close, he’s still in positive territory, but not by much. The latest survey, taken Friday through Sunday, puts the president’s approval at 49%-46%. That is Obama’s narrowest margin of the year, with his approval matching his low point in early October and his disapproval matching his high point later that month.
In comparison to the approval ratings for modern elected presidents in December of their first year in office, Obama’s standing is the worst, though he’s close to Ronald Reagan. In December 1981, Reagan’s approval rating was also 49%, though his disapproval rating was a bit lower, 41%.
What makes this remarkable is the amount of goodwill Obama had available at the beginning of his presidency. The only President to suffer this kind of beating in the USAT/Gallup polling was Ronald Reagan, who had to contend with a fairly unfriendly media as well as almost a decade of economic stagnation. Obama, in comparison, got a free ride during the first six months of his first year in office, and only now gets scrutiny for a lack of leadership and even interest in the issues that surround him.
Jim Geraghty notes that David Axelrod, Obama’s political adviser, can’t be too happy with these results:
So that’s a B+, right?
Well, I’m sure passing a health-care bill without a public option or failing to pass a bill entirely will help these numbers . . .
This brings up a point I discussed on my show yesterday. With Republicans almost entirely united in their disapproval of Obama and the majority of independent disapproval increasing, the real risk for Obama is losing his base. The increase of troops to Afghanistan disillusioned the antiwar Left, and the failure of both the public option and the Medicare buy-in will further damage his standing. The insistence on housing Gitmo detainees in Illinois will only rescue that wing’s support if it’s accompanied by full habeas corpus rights for the terrorists, which the administration thus far has signaled will not be forthcoming — although once the detainees are in the US, courts will probably insist on it.
We’ve seen this kind of erosion before. It happened to George Bush in 2005-2007, when the Right abandoned him after two successive immigration reform efforts and the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court. Obama may be heading into the same kind of vise in which Bush finished his second term of office, especially if the “recovery” doesn’t produce massive numbers of new jobs — and quickly.