A few days ago, I noted that a Reason/Rupe poll had Barack Obama’s approval rating underwater at 47/49, even with a sample that gave Democrats an 11-point edge over Republicans. At the time, I called it an outlier, as Obama had been enjoying relatively strong approval ratings since the election, but Sean Trende warned me in an e-mail that Obama’s approval ratings had begun to turn sour. And today, Reuters makes Sean look like a genius:
Less than two months into his second term, President Barack Obama’s approval rating has dropped and Americans blame him and his fellow Democrats almost as much as his Republican opponents for a fiscal mess.
A Reuters/Ipsos online poll released on Wednesday showed 43 percent of people approve of Obama’s handling of his job, down 7 percentage points from February 19.
Most of that steep drop came in the week to February 26 when it was becoming clear that Washington was going to be unable to put aside partisan differences and agree to halt automatic budget cuts which started last Friday.
Confounding the White House’s efforts to blame Republicans for the cuts, most respondents in the online survey hold both Democrats and Republicans responsible.
Reuters/Ipsos has not released the crosstabs on this poll, but those numbers are hardly cheery for the White House. They put a lot of effort into the last three weeks to campaign against the sequester and to blame Republicans for it. Not only does that not appear to be working, the strategy has damaged Obama’s standing, probably in no small part because of the hysteria showed by Obama and his Cabinet members over cuts that arguably don’t actually cut anything but merely slow spending growth.
Sean’s e-mail pointed to Gallup’s approval ratings, and Reuters points out that the Gallup slide put the White House “on the defensive” yesterday:
The fall in Obama’s rating was similar to that in the Gallup three-day average tracking poll which shows his approval dropping 7 percentage points from late February to last weekend before recovering slightly.
That survey put the White House on the defensive on Tuesday. Spokesman Jay Carney cautioned that the result should not detract from Obama’s efforts to fix thorny tax and spending issues after a convincing election defeat of Republican candidate Mitt Romney last November.
“Before we say anything is clear based on one poll, could we just remember, just think back a few months to the summer and fall of 2012, and understand that we’re here focused on the president’s agenda, getting the work done that we think is most beneficial to the middle class,” he told a briefing.
By late yesterday, though, Obama had rebounded back into positive territory:
Note the overall trend when compared to the fiscal-cliff battles. In December and January, Obama rose to a strong approval rating after fighting for and getting most of the tax hikes he wanted. That bump had somewhat dissipated by the first of February, when attention turned to the sequester, and his approval ratings declined slightly during that debate, only to fall off the table at the very end. It’s almost as if people want a balanced approach to deficit reduction, and suddenly realized that Barack Obama really doesn’t.
Still, this may not have much relevance to Obama any longer. Lower approval ratings would traditionally mean more difficulty in getting an agenda through Congress, but Obama probably has little hope of getting what he wants from the House — especially if John Boehner sticks to his guns on normal-order budgeting and an end to offline deals with the White House. Obama won’t run for office again, and so doesn’t have to worry about how popular or unpopular he becomes, except for personal satisfaction. The only people who will really worry if Obama’s approval level remains in the tank — and we haven’t yet seen any signs of that nature — will be Democrats who have to run for office in 2014. As the first midterm taught Democrats, Obama doesn’t really care much about that, either.