When critics of Obama administration policy speak to public skepticism, Obama apologists point to his approval numbers in various polls. One of those pollsters now says not to pay as much attention to the general approval number, but the motion in the underlying numbers. Douglas Schoen and Scott Rasmussen explain that Obama’s support has quickly declined to just his own party, and even that may be at risk:
It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama’s high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration. Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced.
Polling data show that Mr. Obama’s approval rating is dropping and is below where George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001. Rasmussen Reports data shows that Mr. Obama’s net presidential approval rating — which is calculated by subtracting the number who strongly disapprove from the number who strongly approve — is just six, his lowest rating to date.
That number bounced upward a little to 9 in today’s tracking poll, but the trend has certainly been a sharp decline. When Obama took office in January, he had a 30-point gap in this measurement. The trend line for strong approval shows a shallow decline from the 40% level to the mid-30s, but the problem comes in the strong disapproval number. It has risen sharply from a honeymoon 10% to the low 30s, as independents peel away from Obama.
Rasmussen notes this as an indicator of a confidence drain:
Overall, Rasmussen Reports shows a 56%-43% approval, with a third strongly disapproving of the president’s performance. This is a substantial degree of polarization so early in the administration. Mr. Obama has lost virtually all of his Republican support and a good part of his Independent support, and the trend is decidedly negative.
The American people as a whole tends to give new administrations some time to find their footing, which is usually referred to as the “honeymoon” period. The polling shows that Obama has rapidly depleted that store of goodwill, and that voters have begun taking a hard look at the massive amounts of spending and government expansion, as well as the fumbling response to the financial crisis. Rasmussen notes that taxes have become a big concern, with most voters no longer buying the line that Obama can fund his programs merely by taxing the top 5% of earners. Over eighty percent — a hefty bipartisan majority — worry that the deficit spending Obama has proposed will make the situation worse, not better.
The top-line tracking poll measures whether people like Obama. In general, they still do — but the leading indicators show that they’re beginning to re-evalute his policies to the detriment of Obama and the Democrats helping him ram them through Congress.