At first, Democrats were quick to claim that the scandals erupting over the last month were just flashes in the pan. When that proved to just be wish-casting, the meme changed to the dangers of Republican overreach. According to a new poll from a series normally friendly to the White House, that meme will soon disappear, too. Solid majorities in the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll say that the scandals raise doubts about the integrity of the Obama administration — although they’re not impacting Barack Obama himself, at least not on job approval.
The Hill provides a good analysis of the data:
A new poll finds a trio of controversies raising public concerns about the “honesty” of the Obama administration, even as the president maintains his approval rating.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released late Tuesday shows 55 percent believe the IRS targeting of conservative groups raised questions about the administration’s “overall honesty and integrity.”
Benghazi may have been a long time ago according to Jay Carney, but not to poll respondents:
Fifty-eight percent say the administration’s handling of the Benghazi Consulate attack also raises questions about the honesty of the White House. The same number say the Justice Department’s subpoenaing of reporter email and phone records in national security leak investigations also raises concerns.
However, the news for Obama himself is somewhat better, at least on the surface. He has the same 48/47 job approval rating that he did in April, and only 33% are putting significant responsibility for the IRS scandal on his shoulders (and only 12% “total responsibility”). Obama supporters will offer those data points to show that the scandals aren’t impacting his political power.
They’d better not get too married to that argument, either. Obama’s ratings have seriously soured among independents, where his job approval has dropped significantly — and so have his ratings on integrity:
Mr. Obama is holding firm despite a steady decline in support among independent voters. The new poll found 59% of independents disapproving of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president, compared with the 28% who approved. That represents a steep slide since January, when 52% of independents disapproved of Mr. Obama, with 41% approving. …
For example, in January, 45% of self-described independents gave Mr. Obama high marks for being “honest and straightforward.” In the latest poll, that number shrank to 27%.
It’s not just independents on sub-categories, either. He’s dropped in several leadership quality ratings since January:
- Crisis management: 49%, down from 55%
- Strong leadership: 46%, down from 53%
- Honest and straightforward: 42%, down from 47%
- Good Commander-in-Chief: 42%, down from 51%
- Changing business as usual in Washington: 21%, down from 28%
The only significant increase came in likability, which went from 61% to 67%, and which looks like the final refuge of Obama’s overall approval rating. As these scandals continue — and if they expand into other scandals — Obama won’t be able to keep his overall rating up on the basis of likability alone.
Addendum: Also worth noting is that the generic Congressional ballot has Democrats at a +3 over the GOP, which isn’t much of a change over the past year and is within the margin of error of the poll. It’s ranged from D+5 to D+1 since summer of 2012.