As Congress continues to fumble on the budget and the President refuses to lead on it, one might presume that the American electorate confidence in Washington to solve the problems might be declining. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll makes that argument, but the numbers themselves don’t really support their claims. In fact, there is as much evidence of erosion in Barack Obama’s standing as there is for that of Congress:
The early battles in Washington this year have cemented the public’s disapproval of the political system and the country’s leadership, with confidence in congressional Republicans sagging and majorities disapproving of how President Obama is handling top domestic issues, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
In a sweeping indicator of dissatisfaction with Washington, just 26 percent of Americans say they are optimistic about “our system of government and how well it works,” a low point in polls dating to 1974. This gloomy assessment is shared by Democrats and Republicans, even as they agree on little else.
Large majorities in the poll say a partial shutdown of the federal government would be a “bad thing,” but each side squarely blames the other for not compromising in the budget negotiations. Eighty-nine percent of Democrats say Republicans in Congress are not doing enough to strike a deal with the Obama administration, and 81 percent of Republicans see the president as intransigent.
I’d take this more seriously if the WaPo/ABC pollster knew how to sample correctly. Today’s sample has a D/R/I of 33/24/37, just slightly better than January’s 33/23/38. The D+9 sample has no relation to reality, as anyone who paid attention to the results of the last two elections would know. Barack Obama won in 2008 with a seven-point margin of victory in the popular vote, and both Gallup and Rasmussen have put the two parties within one or two points of each other for almost a year. In contrast, the WaPo/ABC series has only had the sample as close as a D+5 once in the past year (December), and in its poll just before the midterms, said Democrats were closing the gap based on a sample that had a D+10.
Thanks to laughably bad sampling, WaPo/ABC is practically the only major national poll showing Obama with a majority approval rate at 51/45. It doesn’t help on the issues, though, and one would have to wonder how Obama would score on these with a sample that actually reflected the registered electorate:
- Economy: 43/55, down from 46/51 in January
- Deficit: 39/55, down from 43/52 in January
- Political unrest in the Middle East: 45/44
- Libya: 45/34
Despite the reporting on the poll, Congress actually hasn’t lost much ground at all. This poll has Congressional approval at 27/69, just slightly down from January at 28/66, easily within the margin of error. While there has been some decline in trust of the GOP for the economy (41% to 34%) and the deficit (41% to 36%), Republicans have gained in estimation of leadership while Obama has declined since December (43/42 Obama in December, 39/46 today).
Moreover, confidence in the Obama stimulus package continues to erode slightly, even as Obama tries to find ways to sell the idea of more “investment.” Those who say it helped as opposed to hurt or made no difference declined slightly to 28/21/49 in this survey even with the D+9 advantage, down from last June’s 30/20/49. That’s also within the MOE, but it shows that despite Obama’s sales job on more government spending, seven out of ten American voters will be skeptical at best, and probably hostile in the long run.
The results of this poll, to the extent they can be trusted at all, shows little real movement on issues or standing. If it weren’t for the serious underpolling of Republicans, it would look much like other polls showing Obama retreating in approval after the broad rebound he had in the beginning of 2011.
Update: That should have been “seven out of ten,” not “six out of ten”; 21 +49 = 70, not 60. Thanks to Scott M for the correction.