On Monday, I wrote that inaugurations are optimistic events, where Americans can take pride in our functioning democratic republic. Perhaps optimism is a relative point, or at least it seems so from a Gallup poll gauging interest in inaugurations. Not only did interest drop significantly from 2009, it actually fell below that shown in George W. Bush’s second inauguration eight years ago:
Thirty-eight percent of Americans interviewed Monday night said they watched or listened to the inauguration ceremonies as they happened; another 27% saw, read, or heard news coverage of the events. That is down considerably from 2009, when a combined 80% watched the ceremonies live (60%) or saw news coverage of them (20%). Reported viewership of Monday’s ceremonies is similar to what Gallup measured for George W. Bush’s second inauguration eight years ago.
The viewership is similar, but not overall interest. Gallup routinely captures those who watch the ceremonies, follow only through news coverage, or avoided both. Combining the first two and comparing the third, the interest in Obama’s second inaugural lags Bush II and trails Obama I badly:
- 2013: 65/33
- 2009: 80/20
- 2005: 73/26
On optimism, the Hope And Change President flopped, with the lowest levels of optimism of the three:
Given the lower levels of attention paid to the second inauguration by Americans, and their less positive reaction to Obama’s speech, it is not surprising that fewer Americans said the inauguration made them more hopeful about the next four years than did so in 2009. Specifically, 37% of Americans said they are now more hopeful about the next four years after Monday’s presidential inauguration ceremonies, compared with 62% after Obama’s first inauguration. Reaction to Monday’s inauguration was similar to Bush’s second inauguration in 2005.
Again, similar — but still lagging. In 2009, the optimists outnumbered the pessimists 62/11, with only 23% indifferent — remarkable, considering the ongoing crisis at that time. In 2005, it was 43/25/28. This week, it’s 37/27/30. Just comparing the gaps, we have a +51 for optimism in 2009, a +18 in 2005, and only a +10 this time around.
What does this mean for the beginning of a second term? In rhetorical terms, not much; Obama will act as though he has the same kind of mandate he did in 2009. However, in practical terms, it’s getting clear that while Obama won re-election by destroying the reputation of his opponent, he didn’t win much support for his agenda. That’s one reason why Obama wants to transform his campaign into a lobbying shop, but that has even some Democrats balking:
Even as Democrats relish President Obama’ second inauguration, some party leaders are worried about whether the campaign’s decision to form its own advocacy group will hamstring future generations of Democratic candidates.
Several of the president’s top political advisers and the campaign’s gold mine of a voter database will be housed not at the national party, but at a tax-exempt group called Organizing for Action. It’s the next phase of the year-round campaign apparatus formed after the 2008 campaign to capitalize on Obama’s unprecedented grassroots network and help implement his agenda, only now it will be separate from the Democratic National Committee.
Some activists foresee a power struggle between the national party, which aims to elect Democrats above all else, and the new group, which aims to build the president’s legacy — and may have to pressure wavering swing-state Democrats to tow the unapologetically liberal agenda laid out in his inauguration speech. …
While Wasserman Schultz said the two political arms would work hand in hand, not all party leaders are convinced.
“We speak Pennsylvania,” said the Pennsylvania Democratic party chairman, Jim Burns, “so if you come into Montgomery County and set up shop, you better talk to the party chairman there before you start walking in his backyard. If they don’t engage with us they will be stepping on a lot of land mines.”
OFA turned out to be good at calling Mitt Romney a tax cheat and a “binder” of women. This poll shows that it didn’t succeed much at making people look forward to four more years of Obama. This could be a big step in the wrong direction.