There’s not much to the new Washington Post/ABC poll except Iraq, which used to be a good issue for Barack Obama in this series. In April 2009, after having embraced the Bush-Maliki SOFA as the vehicle for total withdrawal, Obama scored a 71/21 on Iraq. A year later, the response was more rational but still positive at 48/42 and 49/45, but oddly the WaPo/ABC poll series hasn’t surveyed on this topic in the almost four years since.
Until now, that is — and now Obama’s underwater:
President Obama receives his worst marks yet for handling the situation in Iraq, with 52 percent disapproving and strong negative sentiment now outpacing strong approval by 2 to 1 (34 to 17 percent) in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. …
For the first time in Post-ABC polls disapproval of Obama for handling Iraq outpaces approval, 52 to 42 percent. His ratings tilted positive the last time Iraq approval was asked in September 2010 – 49 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving, with nearly one-third of Republicans giving him positive marks (31 percent). But Republican support has plummeted to 13 percent in the new poll while independents have also shifted negatively, with the share approving of his Iraq efforts dipping from 49 to 40 percent. Democrats have been more consistent in approval of Obama, though their level of support fails to match Republicans’ opposition.
If it’s any comfort to the White House, the shift from September 2010 isn’t all that dramatic, although the passion of the opposition certainly has. He’s gone from a +4 to a -10, a fourteen point change. That’s significant but not really a collapse, especially since this series stopped asking about Iraq four years ago. If we had more recent data points, we might be able to tell whether this is just a shock, or whether Obama has been underwater on Iraq for a longer period of time than just in the last few weeks. It’s entirely possible that people began rethinking Obama’s handling of Iraq at the same time that it became clear that Obama had lost control of his policy toward Syria, which is not unrelated to the collapse of Iraq.
The poll also has some relatively good news for Obama, or perhaps more accurately less bad news. Almost two-thirds oppose the use of US ground forces in Iraq, 30/65, just like Obama does. Respondents are split on air strikes, 45/46, an option which Obama is supposedly holding in reserve until Baghdad reforms its government. That split has strong undercurrents tied to party ID and gender, however. Only Republicans have a majority in support of air strikes, while men (54/40) and women (38/52) are almost diametrically opposite on the option.
In the end, though, Obama’s polling on Iraq is probably not going to drive his policy response or the fortunes of Democrats in the midterms, so the poll results are more academic than anything else. A better indicator of Obama’s standing and Democratic party fortunes can be found at Gallup, where Obama is now 15 points underwater at 40/55 in the three-day average from their daily polling. Just two weeks ago, that was at 46/47. Iraq has something to do with that, but that may also be the IRS scandal, ObamaCare, the VA scandal, the Taliban 5 swap, or the economy — all of which feed into the increasing consensus that Obama has lost control and hasn’t the leadership skills to get it back. It’s the Bush plunge redux, and it’s coming at the same relative point in Obama’s presidency.