We’ve seen oodles of polls of late, all reflecting a precipitous decline in Obama’s approval ratings. But none is more interesting than the poll by the Economist. It is all the more fascinating — and devastating for Obama — because it is a poll of all adults, not registered or likely voters, which normally would tilt more to the Left. In other words, among likely voters Obama would probably be doing even worse.
The results show a president struggling. On the oil spill, 28% approve and 42% disapprove of his performance. On taxes, government spending, immigration, gun control, national defense, and terrorism the respondents say they are closer to the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. On gun control and national defense there is a double-digit gap. Democrats do better on regulating business (but within the margin of error), the environment, abortion (also within the margin of error), gay marriage, health care (by four points) and energy policy. In an enormous turnaround since Obama took office, the parties tie on the economy.
38 percent support the goals of the Tea Party movement; 27 percent do not. In a slew of areas (the Middle East, Afghanistan, energy policy, the environment, the economy, job security, health-care coverage, education, entitlement programs, the financial system, and Wall Street) the public thinks we are worse off than two years ago. There is no area in which the public thinks things have improved. They disapprove of Obama’s performance on Iraq, the economy (39 percent strongly so), immigration (41 percent strongly so), the environment, terrorism, gay rights, social security, the deficit (57 percent strongly or somewhat), Afghanistan, and taxes. On education they approve, but within the margin of error. Overall 44 percent approve of his performance and 49 percent do not.
With the exception of education and health care, the areas respondents are most concerned about (the economy, terrorism, social security, the budget deficit, and taxes) are ones on which Obama is doing very poorly and which most respondents believe have gotten worse in the last two years.
Finally, with regard to personal qualities, some of the results are stunning. Only 14 percent describe Obama as experienced, 47 percent don’t. (After 18 months in office, that is.) 31 percent do not describe him as effective, only 25 percent do. 35 percent would not describe him as unifying, only 18 percent would. Although within the margin of error, more would not describe him as patriotic or in touch.
I go through these in some detail because the results present a picture of a president failing in nearly every area the public cares most about and who has lost the advantage on personal qualities, which were the foundation of his appeal as a candidate. In 18 months he has gone from “a sort of God” to “a sort of goat.” Maybe he can turn things around, but he has a long way to go.