Barack Obama won the Presidency by convincing independents to break away from the GOP and from John McCain, promising them a new, post-partisan, centrist direction and agenda. Even after passing Porkulus by locking Republicans out of the process and pushing ObamaCare last spring, Gallup’s survey a year ago showed Obama still holding 56% of independents. Now that number has sunk to 38%, while his rolling 3-day Gallup average job approval drops to 44% (via Andrew Malcolm):
Thirty-eight percent of independents approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, the first time independent approval of Obama has dropped below 40% in a Gallup Daily tracking weekly aggregate. Meanwhile, Obama maintains the support of 81% of Democrats, and his job approval among Republicans remains low, at 12%. …
Over the past year, Obama has lost support among all party groups, though the decline has been steeper among independents than among Republicans or Democrats. Today’s 38% approval rating among independents is 18 percentage points lower than the 56% found July 6-12, 2009. During the same period, his support has fallen nine points among Democrats (from 90% to 81%) and eight points among Republicans (from 20% to 12%).
It’s worth pointing out that Rasmussen first saw this trend a year ago in its surveys of likely voters. Independents engaged in the political process had already become disenchanted with Hope and Change at about the time ObamaCare and ObamaCap hit Congress and the radical nature of the Democratic agenda became clear. What has happened since is that the realization has slowly filtered out to those less engaged in national politics, and now Obama is getting marginalized in the demographic that won him an election.
How dangerous is this for Obama? Well, as I keep arguing, Obama will be President for the next two-and-a-half years regardless of what people think about him. That’s a long time in politics, and Obama could make a Clintonian pirouette and become a supply-sider and free-marketeer in the second half of this term. That helped Bill Clinton win back independents in 1996, and the same could happen to Obama. If the economy roars back to life in 2011, Obama will regain some of his footing with independents, but getting that kind of recovery absolutely depends on dramatically changing course on policy, too.
The danger is for Democrats in the midterms. With this significant of a collapse in standing, two dynamics come into play. First, the independents who turned out for Obama in 2008 will not show up in 2010. Worse, those who do will show up to vote against Obama and his agenda. This poll shows a high level of disillusionment among independents especially, and they can only demonstrate their anger at that by kicking Obama’s allies out of Congress. Obama had better hope that satisfies them.