CBS poll: 59% say Obama has no clear plan for the Gulf spill

And that’s saying something for a CBS poll that returns to the network’s sample-skewing roots, which I’ll get to in a minute.  The Oval Office address didn’t help Barack Obama at all when it comes to communicating a sense of command in the Gulf crisis or overall leadership.  Instead, a wide majority of Americans believe that Obama has no clear plan at all for dealing with the disaster more than two months after it ignited in a ball of flame:

Most Americans do not believe President Obama has a clear plan to deal with the oil spill in the Gulf, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.

Just 32 percent say Mr. Obama has a clear plan to deal with the oil leak, while 59 percent (including 64 percent of Gulf coast residents) say he does not.

The numbers are not much better among those who watched the president’s Oval Office speech on the spill last week, with 35 percent of that group saying he has a clear plan and 56 percent saying he does not.

The spill isn’t the only issue on which the president is seen as lacking a plan of action: Just 41 percent say Mr. Obama has a clear plan for developing new sources of energy, while 45 percent say he has no clear plan. And when it comes to creating jobs, just 34 percent say he has a clear plan; 54 percent say he does not.

If anyone doubted that the Oval Office speech was a disaster, these numbers show it rather clearly.  The only reason to give a speech from the Oval Office, the bulliest of bully pulpits, is to attach the symbols of power and command to the President and impress viewers with the trappings of the office.  At that, Obama failed miserably.  The 35% of people who considered themselves impressed with his performance are his baseline of support in the poll.

In fact, that’s one of the remarkable things about this poll.  Unweighted, it had a D/R/I of 32/29/39, which arguably may have slightly overrepresented independents but had the relationship between Democrats and Republicans about right.  However, CBS weighted their sample and wound up turning it into hash:

Party Unweighted U-Pct Weighted W-Pct
Republican 367 29.2% 302 24.0%
Democrats 404 32.1% 432 34.3%
Independents 488 38.8% 525 41.7%
1259 1259

Before the weighting, the partisan split was three points.  CBS turned it into a 10-point gap, a ridiculous polling structure, and increased the overrepresentation of independents as well.  The 35% appears to come entirely from Obama’s new floor of Democratic voters.

With that in mind, Obama has a lot more problems in this polling.  Despite a 10-point gap in the weighting, his overall job approval is 47/43, and would be underwater entirely in a properly-balanced sample.    Sixty-one percent believe that Obama has been too slow in responding to the Gulf crisis and he only gets a 43/47 approval on his overall handling of the crisis, but the criticism goes beyond that:

  • Economy – 45/48
  • Clear plan for creating jobs – 34/54

Given that these will be the two biggest issues in the upcoming midterms, this looks bleak for Democrats hoping to win re-election.  They won’t be able to count on a +10 turnout for their side, either.