WaPo/ABC poll: Obama fading

Even with a skewed sample, the new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows big trouble for Barack Obama.  He manages to hang onto a 57% approval rating, thanks to a 10-point gap between Democrats and Republicans in the sample, but otherwise the survey shows confidence flagging, pun intended, in Obama. This comes at a bad time for the White House, as they have two massive overhauls of the American economy on the floor of Congress — and that may be the problem:

Public confidence in President Obama’s leadership has declined sharply over the summer, amid intensifying opposition to health-care reform that threatens to undercut his attempt to enact major changes to the system, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Among all Americans, 49 percent now express confidence that Obama will make the right decisions for the country, down from 60 percent at the 100-day mark in his presidency. Forty-nine percent now say they think he will be able to spearhead significant improvements in the system, down nearly 20 percentage points from before he took office.

As challenges to Obama’s initiatives have mounted over the summer, pessimism in the nation’s direction has risen: Fifty-five percent see things as pretty seriously on the wrong track, up from 48 percent in April. …

The president’s overall approval rating stands at 57 percent, 12 points lower than its April peak, as disapproval has ticked up to 40 percent, its highest yet. On specific issues, Obama received more mixed marks. A majority, 53 percent, now disapprove of his handling of the federal budget deficit, and his ratings on health care continue to deteriorate. On the marquee issue of the economy, 52 percent approve of his actions, unchanged from June.

Let’s deal with the sample first.  The poll includes 35% Democrats, 25% Republicans, and 34% independents.  That would make sense — if Obama had won the election by 14 points.  He won it by seven, with independents and some Republicans breaking for Obama.  Here’s a hint to pollsters: if you’re tracking a bigger gap between Democrats and Republicans than we saw in the presidential election, your sample is almost certainly unrepresentative of the electorate.   At least it’s improved for WaPo/ABC, which had it at a ridiculous 13-point gap in June.

The skew explains why Obama still has a 57% approval rating in this poll when Rasmussen and Zogby have him under water and Gallup has him closing in on 50%.  Even with the skew, his disapproval numbers have risen sharply, especially on ObamaCare, which is practically all anyone discusses.  Half of the survey respondents oppose it, with 40% strongly opposed, compared to 45% approving and only 27% strongly approving.  Obama is losing the argument, and the longer it continues, the more his overall numbers will erode with it.

WaPo/ABC sees independents as the key, as should Congressional Democrats facing elections next year.  At the beginning of 2009, Obama had high ratings among independents, but no longer.  Only 41% now trust Obama’s judgment, down from 61% in January.  They disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care by 57%, almost all of whom strongly disapprove, and the same number oppose the policy itself.  Among the half of independents that say ObamaCare will affect their vote in the midterms, they swing 2-1 to saying that they will oppose candidates who backed it.

Even the skewed samples don’t hide the fact that voters have finally realized that Obama is no genius, but an inexperienced politician, a lousy doctor, and an incompetent economist.  And it’s only the seventh month of his presidency.