WaPo: Obama polling is worse than its topline looks

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve looked at the various polls on Barack Obama’s performance and noted the dramatic decline in approval on both policy areas and personal qualities. Today, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake and Sean Sullivan take a look at the former, and inform readers that Obama is in much bigger trouble than just dropping below 40% overall approval:

Recent polling from the Pew Research Center and Quinnipiac University has shown Obama’s approval rating on almost all major issues plunging into the 30s — below even his lowest-ever overall approval rating, which has stood around 40 percent in recent polls.

One might expect Obama’s issue approval rating to be lagging on the economy, for example. And it is.

But even with an issue on which which the president appears to fall in line with a majority of Americans, he’s struggling.

The Pew poll showed Obama’s approval rating on immigration, for instance, was at 32 percent, with 60 percent disapproving, and Quinnipiac showed just 35 percent approving of Obama on that issue.

The two wonder why Obama’s job approval rating remains a little above his ratings on these critical issues.  One of their theories is that his likeability may still be softening the blow, or that the collapse of his leadership approval numbers means that people believe he simply can’t deliver. I’d lean a little more toward the former, although we haven’t seen a poll on likeability in a while.

They miss, however, the big issue of his personal honesty and integrity.  For the first time in his presidency, Obama finds poll numbers plunging on that key attribute, as I noted in my column at The Week yesterday:

His average approval rating on Real Clear Politics has dropped below 40 percent for the first time in his presidency. But worse yet are the ratings on personal qualities like honesty, integrity, and leadership. CNN’s latest poll, taken just before Thanksgiving, shows 53 percent believing that Obama isn’t honest or trustworthy. A CBS News poll put trust in Obama’s word at 49 percent, eleven points lower than a year earlier, while a Washington Post/ABC News survey gave him a 47/50 result on whether he was “honest and trustworthy” — and 33/63 when those attributes were applied to the ObamaCare implementation.

That’s why Obama is in big trouble, and why a fancy speech and a couple of pivots won’t work this time.  That may be especially true among millennials, as I write in today’s column at The Fiscal Times. Those are the voters where disillusionment will hit the hardest on bald-faced lies like “If you like your plan, you can keep it,” and where the damage will hurt Obama and Democrats the most:

Obama wants to counter this with a sales pitch to younger voters, combined with a pivot of sorts to the economy – namely, a demand for a minimum-wage hike. Obama’s problem in this effort is his track record on sales pitches, as well as the demonstrable incompetence of his administration to manage his projects. Young voters bought all of those Obama lines about keeping your plan if you like it, and lower premiums for all. They are not likely to fall under that swoon again when the bills are now coming due each month for the betrayal Obama provided in place of his promised Utopia.

And it’s not just the President who needs to worry about this. In a demographic that usually skews sharply Democratic, the partisan affiliation gap has closed nine points, 33/24. Among those 25 years of age and younger, it’s down to six points in the Harvard poll. Across the whole survey, more align themselves with conservatives than liberals (37/33, 26/22 without leaners). Only half of the survey say they will definitely or probably vote in the 2014 midterms.

Losing their traditional demographic edge would be a disaster for Democrats, not just in votes but also in enthusiasm and activism. That’s what happens when the bill comes due on Obamacare, as younger Americans are increasingly discovering for themselves.

Alex Roarty at National Journal says Obama’s losing another key demographic, too, and Democrats should be very worried:

It’s not the voters who hate Obamacare the most who are going to matter in next year’s elections. It’s the independents who frequently side with Democrats but could, if propelled by a distaste for the health care law, take a serious look at the GOP in 2014. And on this front, Democrats have a big problem with one of their most crucial constituencies—white women.

Polling provided to National Journal by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that white women have soured considerably on the law, especially in the month since its botched rollout. The skepticism runs especially deep among blue-collar women, sometimes known as “waitress moms,” whose deeply pessimistic attitudes toward the Affordable Care Act should riddle Democratic candidates with anxiety.

Certainly, the law’s unpopularity gives Republicans a tool to counter the Democratic claim of a GOP “war on women”—something Republicans failed miserably at in 2012. But more significantly, it demonstrates that Democrats will have to fight just to retain core elements of their constituency. With 2014’s most important campaigns already lying in hostile territory like Alaska, Arkansas, and South Dakota, it’s a battle many of these candidates can ill afford.

Be sure to read it all, and then ask how Obama can possibly sell them on a program they hate by making more promises of success while having all of his other promises on this exposed as flat-out lies. As Blake and Sullivan say, Obama is in bigger trouble than just his overall approval ratings.

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